Monday, 26 March 2012


In olden days, the concept of international trade was not prevalent. Instead, international trade was referred to as trading activities conducted overseas or over long distances. History of international trade shows us how trade used to take place between various nations in olden days. It gives us an insight into the evolution of the concept of international trade.

Given below is a rough outline of the history of international trade.


The important trading activities, which took place in the ancient period can be summarized as under:

  • According to Periplus Maris Erythraei, which is a Greek travel manuscript, written in the 1st century CE, there used to be extensive trade between Romans and the Indians.
  • The Arabian nomads carried out long distance trading activities with the help of camels. They traded silk and spices in Far East.
  • The Tyrian fleet of ships known as "Ships of Tarshish", sailed back with ivory, silver, gold and precious stones from the east.
  • The Egyptians carried out extensive trading activities in the Red Sea. They imported spices from Arabia and from the "Land of Punt".
  • Ptolemaic dynasty, which is a Greek dynasty, was the first to carry out trade with India, long before the Romans did.
  • People belonging to the Kingdom of Qataban, cultivated and traded aromatics as well as spices. The Kingdom's economy was dependent on this trade. Spices and aromatics were exported to Abyssinia, Mediterranean and Arabia.
  • Berencie and Myos Hormos became important trading ports during the 1st century BCE.
  • There was an increased demand in aromatics with Indian culture being introduced in Java and Borneo. These places assume importance as reputed trading points. These were to cater to the Arab as well as Chinese markets, in the years to come.
  • Pre Islamic Meccans benefited from demand of Romans for luxury articles. For this, the Pre Islamic Meccans used the Incense Route.
  • Myos Hormos, Arsinoe and Berenice were three main Roman ports, where goods brought in from East Africa were set ashore.

In the above paragraphs, we also get to see some of the important trading ports during the ancient times. These trading ports served as corridors to other nations.

History of international trade in the middle ages- Important events

  • The Song Dynasty created the first paper printed money. Aden, Siraf, Damietta and Alexandria were used as ports through, which the Abassids entered China and India.
  • Industrial manufacturing, processing and distribution of wine, tea, salt was nationalized by Wang Anshi of China.
  • Market rights as well as trading privileges were secured by Hanseatic League in England for goods in the year 1157.
  • Brocade workshops as well as silk mills were supported by the Song Dynasty in Kafeing and eastern province.

  • Foreign trade licenses were introduced by Japan to prevent piracy and smuggling in the year 1592.
  • Dutch convoys sails back in the year 1599 with products from East India. The convoy also brings in spices.(600,000 pounds).
  • Dutch East India Company is established in the year 1602. The company declares bankruptcy in 1799 because of a rise in competition in free trade.
  • The French constructed military forts during the eighteenth century. These forts acted as trading and communication ports for trade of fur.

  • During the reign of Napoleon III, the Free Trade Agreement(year-1860) was struck between France and Britain.
  • In the year 1815, first nutmeg shipment sailed back from Europe.
  • In 1868, Japanese Meiji Restoration opened its doors for industrialization by means of free trade.
  • In the year 1946, the Bretton Woods System was introduced. This international economic model was introduced to stop wars and depressions.
  • In 1947, as many as 23 nations give their consent to the implementation of GATT (General Agreement On Tariffs And Trade).
  • Formation of Zangger Committee takes place in 1971. It was set up with a view of interpreting nuclear goods in perspective of international trade.
  • International trade of nuclear goods was moderated by Nuclear Suppliers Group or NSG, which was established in the year 1974.
  • NAFTA was formed on 1st January, 1994.
  • On 1st January, 1995, the World Trade Organization or the WTO came into being to promote free trade between various nations.

The journey from the "Land of Punt" to the WTO, has been a long one and in each step, people have responded to situations depending on the needs of the time.

For further enquiries or instruction in respect of international trade law, please contact us at

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© 2012, Strategic Legal Solutions Group Limited

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