Countertrade (CT) is often treated as an inefficient and largely undesirable trading medium. The former Council for Mutual Economic Assistance countries were major exponents of CT both among themselves and also when dealing with Western nations. Following liberalization of “Eastern” politico‐economic systems, more orthodox commercial relationships are being established. This prompts the thesis that CT has been used by Western firms to gain a toe‐hold in difficult Eastern markets to be converted into a more secure relationship, such as a joint venture, when market circumstances become less harsh. Recent events have allowed testing of this hypothesis both by observing the behaviour of a small group of UK countertraders and also via a two‐stage study of Turkish companies. Although there is limited evidence that CT presages more formal modes of market servicing, concludes that CT will probably persist as long as access to hard currencies by Eastern organizations is limited, and so long as entrepreneurs with vision seek out new market opportunities.
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