Chapter 17: Exploring the theoretical foundations of the exporter–importer relationship research
Exporting is arguably the oldest international business activity. For thousands of years, merchants sought to move local products (often commodities) to distant places where they might be considered rare or exceptional and, hopefully, in demand. As with the practice of exporting, the literature on international trade is among the oldest. It is thus not surprising that early theories of international trade were based on exporting activities of nations (Katsikeas et al., 2008). Despite the ancient roots of export practice, academic interest in exporting at the micro-business level was scarce until the early 1960s, when research in the field slowly began to solidify. Since then, there has been an exponential growth of research on export business activities, producing an excess of 800 articles during the last five decades (Leonidou et al., 2010). Exporting has been seen from two broad angles, namely economic and relational. Whereas the economic approach stresses the cost-efficiency dynamics of export-related activities with the view that exporters manipulate the elements of the marketing mix to receive a response from a passive customer market, the relational approach hinges on the behavioural aspects of the working relationship between exporters and importers and underlines the role of both parties in establishing, developing and maintaining long-lasting business relationships (Cunningham, 1980).
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