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A Trade Route is the importing of one Trade Good into your Province from another province. That other province can be either foreign or domestic (from within your own nation). A Province can only export to you if that province provides a surplus (i.e., if it in total produces more than 1 of that Trade Good). A nation can always import any Trade Goods from its other provinces, but from foreign nations there must be negotiated trade access first (i.e., positive relations). When two nations with active trade routes go to war all imports/exports between them are cancelled.
A Territory produces 1 Trade Good by default, and can produce more with enough labor. For each additional 15 slaves in a settlement, and 20 slaves in a city or metropolis, it will produce an additional +1 Trade Good. The threshold for a surplus can be reduced by -2 by the "Land Seizure Protocol" Land Reforms Law; -1 by the level 7 "Slave Latifundia" Civic Invention; -2 by Farmland terrain, and -5 by a Farm Estate or a Mine to a minimum of 7.
There is no limit to how how many exports a province has, other than the amount of surplus goods it can produce. A nation can always import a Trade Good if it already has a surplus of it, and that gives you a smaller additional bonus indicated by the UI. Typically surpluses of trade goods are typically sought after mostly, or entirely, in the nation's capital province. A surplus in the capital gives a special bonus to the ENTIRE nation, these can be found in this list.
Only the capital city in each province gets the benefit of any stacked (excess) goods. The other cities/settlements get treated as though they have access to just 1 of the trade-goods. Only the province stacking bonus can be applied multiple times.
Commerce Income is earned by Trade Routes, separately from the Commerce generated by Citizens. Each Trade Route, import or export, to a foreign nation earns a base of +0.20 Commerce Income, and each domestic Trade Route earns a base of +0.05 Commerce Income. These are further modified by +2% per 1 Finesse of the ruler; +2.5% by each level of Civic Advances; +1% by every 4 Stability above 50; +5% by a capital surplus of Dates and +2.5% by exporting them.
Increasing Import routes
A nation has multiple ways to get more allowed import routes to its provinces:
- each civic provincial investment adds +1 trade route (and they stack)
- each port add +1 trade route to the province
- if a province has a Metropolis then it gets +1 trade route
In addition, the capital province gets many more trade routes
- higher nation ranks get more import routes to their capitals
- inventions and national ideas can also increase capital import routes
- the commerce economy option "Trading Permits" adds +2 capital import routes
- the "Patronized Trading Posts" National Idea gives +3 capital import routes
- every four levels of Civic Inventions give the option of increasing capital import routes by +1