International Trade

"No generation has had the opportunity, as we now have, to build a global economy that leaves no-one behind. It is a wonderful opportunity, but also a profound responsibility."

Bill Clinton, 42nd president of the United States
All Lesson Plans
General English
Business English
Special Holidays & World Days

This Business English ESL lesson plan on international trade has been designed for business professionals or other adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

International trade is one of the principle driving forces of globalisation and the global economy. Our current economic thinking dictates that countries and their businesses should be free to trade in any other country in the world. However, this global trade massively favours multinational corporations from wealthier nations, often to the detriment of local populations. For this reason, most countries employ some kind of barrier to protect their own companies from what they see as unfair advantages from abroad. In this Business English lesson plan on international trade and the global economy, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as how the global economy works, the barriers to international trade, and why there is resistance to this.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

Investopedia | What Is a Free Trade Area? Definition, Benefits, and Disadvantages

The article gives a definition of free trade areas, explains the advantages such as access to better quality products and encouraging innovation, as well as some disadvantages such as job losses and a reduction in working conditions. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was written? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below at home. In the class, the students will answer a number of conversation questions directly or indirectly related to the content of the video.

The video for this class is a TEDx Talk by Haley Edwards called “What global trade deals are really about” which explores the true motives behind why countries want to secure trade agreements around the world.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means, if they agree with it and how it could relate to business. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including which countries the students’ countries conduct most trade with, their experience of international trade, and the future of international trade.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with international trade and the global economy such as trade deficit, trade war and protectionism. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the conversation questions. Before the conversation, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about international trade and the global economy. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as why trade liberalisation remains deeply unpopular, when governments should protect local products, and whether trade agreements favour richer countries.


After the class, students will write a letter to a logistics company requesting information about the services they offer. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise business-style writing as well as improving their grammar with the feedback from their teacher.


Did you find this lesson plan useful?

Your English Pal is a free resource to help fellow ESL teachers save time when preparing their classes. If these lesson plans have helped you, and you’d like to help keep the site free, please consider making a small contribution to help cover the site’s costs. Any help you can give is much appreciated!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *