"Irish poets, learn your trade, sing whatever is well made, scorn the sort now growing up all out of shape from toe to top."
- William Butler Yeats
In ancient times, commerce was restricted mainly to local markets. This is because, transporting commodities over any significant distance was an expensive and risky business. At the time, the most commonly traded articles were foodstuffs and clothing. Most People spent their huge resources on food which they neither grew nor gathered themselves. They usually obtained foodstuffs through trade. The same was applicable for clothing too. Garments were either produced and handed down within the family or acquired through trade.
Tin is an essential metal in the creation of tin bronzes and its acquisition has been an important part of Bronze Age and later cultures throughout ancient history. Tin is a relatively rare element in the Earth’s crust with approximately 2 ppm (parts per million). Europe has a limited source of tin. They found that it was significant to import it long distances from tin mining districts of antiquity, namely Erzgebirge along the border between Germany and Czech Republic, the Iberian Peninsula, Brittany in France, and Devon and Cornwall in southwestern England. So in addition to food, shelter, and clothing, the rich devoted their income to jewelry, work of arts, and metals. This paved the way to develop trade on luxury items.
Trade in medieval period started blooming after the fall of Roman Empire- during the 12th and 13th centuries. European commerce began to expand gradually. They witnessed very rapid expansion across all the European countries. Improvement to the trade and commerce of Middle Ages was contributed by the development in security, transport, and communication of Europe. Merchants could travel long distance safely during this time. They formed associations for the protection of travelers who journeyed abroad. The main long-distance trade routes were from the Baltic and the eastern Mediterranean to central and northern Europe. But the commerce between Europe and Asia was limited, because overland transport was expensive and because Europe possessed little of value for export to the East.
During the early modern period, they put their effort on development of oceangoing warships. New ocean routes between Europe and the East allowed imports from Asia at lower costs and in larger volume that had been possible by overland caravan. In return for Asian imports, European exchanged silver coins minted in Mexico, Spain, Italy and Holland. Trade in certain staple commodities grew with incredible speed. Long distance trade continued to grow. As a result of this, new form of commercial organizations and informal associations appeared. This paved the way for legal partnerships. Shareholding broke down the restrictions between different classes of merchants. After 16th century the chartered trading company replaced the temporary partnerships.
By the year 1750, commerce was once again transformed by the industrial revolution. Between 1750 and 1914, world trade increased in value fivefold. During the 19th century alone, world shipping tonnage grew from 4 million to roughly 30 million tons. European merchants carried the bulk of this trade. By the end of the 19th century, primary producing regions were no longer the most important outlets for the products of European.
In today’s world, Europe exports hundreds of millions of euros worth of goods and vice versa. Europe is the world’s largest exporter of manufactured products and services and they became the biggest export market for more than one hundred countries. Trade is the backbone of Europe’s prosperity. The 27 Member States of the European Union share a single market, a single external border and a single trade policy. The European Union is the leading member of World Trade Organization. European trade policy tries to create job, investment opportunities and growth for European companies. This helps countries and people around the world to use trade as a tool for development. They ensures trade as a force for sustainable development.
José Manuel Barroso, the current President of the European Commission presented communication towards “ EUROPE 2020” as follows:
Europe 2020 is the EU's growth strategy for the coming decade. In a changing world, we want the EU to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. These three mutually reinforcing priorities should help the EU and the Member States deliver high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion.
Concretely, the Union has set five ambitious objectives - on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy - to be reached by 2020. Each Member State has adopted its own national targets in each of these areas. Concrete actions at EU and national levels underpin the strategy.