YOUR correspondent, commenting on the current Irish trade mission, makes a simple economic mistake by writing: "But there is a need to balance trade relations, which significantly favour Ireland" (Irish ‘eager to improve unbalanced trade links with SA’, November 14).

Notwithstanding Leon Louw’s excellent comments about trade deficits being private affairs rather than concerns of a nation (Econobabble has everyone worried over nothing, November 14), your correspondent misunderstands the nature of international trade.

If country A buys imports from country B and exports to country C, it can use its earnings from C to settle any accounts with country B.

This triangle of trade means it is irrelevant to country A what its "balance" with country B is, as long as it is exporting enough to C to pay its bills.

Personally, I have trade deficits with my grocer, dentist, cellphone company, in fact almost all the counterparties I deal with.

Thankfully, I have a surplus from the activity I count as my occupation and so my specialisation ensures my exports cover my imports.

Countries, similarly, should specialise in what they do best.

Trade deficits between countries are as meaningless as that with your hairdresser.

Neil Emerick