Countertrade, offsets, barter, and buybacks have existed since before money was invented but over the last few centuries have been treated as marginal phenomena. However, current estimates of the volume of these activités range from 8 to 30 percent of world trade and could reach 50% by the year 2000. What is surprising is not just the imprecision of the data but the fact that we have no control over this enormous volume of international transactions. This article examines these forms of trade, their causes and policy implications, and their future impact on our open trade system.
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