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An import is a good or service that’s brought into one country from another.

Imports and exports form the backbone of a nation’s international trade, but countries that import a greater value of goods and services than they export incur a negative trade balance.

That’s not necessarily a bad situation, because it can correct itself. But it means more money is exiting a nation than entering. When other nations are holding large amounts of an importing nation’s currency, they can ultimately devalue the money if those nations choose to sell.

Countries import goods and services that do not exist within their borders, or do not exist in an amount or at a quality that will satisfy the population. Countries also import goods that are less expensive to buy and ship home than to make domestically.

For example, even though the United States produces millions of barrels of oil a day, it imports oil because it needs more to satisfy demand. Some nations will import a labor-intensive good, such as shoes, that are made abroad rather than pay the money to make those shoes at home. And many consumers prefer foreign cars for a variety of reasons – looks, style, fuel efficiency – so they’re imported to satisfy demand.

Sometimes countries will strike agreements to import each other’s goods. But nations also impose barriers such as tariffs that restrict the ability for nations to export goods. That leads to fewer imports, as well.

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