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International trade games may be devised to teach an economic theory of international trade, to illustrate the work of a particular international organization or to clarify the economic decisions countries need to make. International trade games have been created to provoke thought on subjects such as fair trade, the position of Third World farmers, the bargaining power of multinational companies or the effects of globalization. International trade games may be concerned with international trade in a particular industry or commodity, such as coffee or the grain trade, helping participants to understand the issues. Games also have been devised to help students understand global financial markets. Some games are designed to be used in the classroom by a number of different players, while others may be played online by one person.
International trade games may be devised for teaching economics in primary or secondary schools, for students or for people involved in development or other work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They may be aimed purely at teaching particular aspects of international trade, or games may be invented to highlight certain problems caused by international trade. Advocates of a particular strategy, such as fair trade, may devise a game to illustrate the effectiveness of their strategy and show how it works in practice. Materials are available from some organizations to enable teachers and lecturers to devise their own international trading games to illustrate points arising in their courses.
International trade games work by enabling students to participate in making economic decisions, seeing the consequences of those decisions and the reactions of other players. The games are an ideal medium for showing how international trade theories work. For example, the comparative advantage theory may be illustrated by a game that adjusts the resources available to each player, so they can maximize their wealth by making the best use of the resources at their disposal. More complex international trade theories also have been illustrated by trade games.
The game Trading Around the World is an example of a game that aims to illustrate international trading conditions. This online game introduces some problems in international trade that have been tackled by the work of the International Monetary Fund. The online World Trade Game considers the relationship between international trade and economic development and is intended to stimulate discussion of the world trading system. Another international trade game available online as of 2011 looks at the relative bargaining positions of industrialized, middle-income and low-income countries.