An entrepôt is a trading post where merchandise can be imported and exported without paying import duties, often at a profit. To illustrate, the reluctance of ships to travel the entire length of a long trading route made them more willing to sell to an entrepôt instead. The entrepôt then sells the goods at a higher price to ships travelling the other segment of the route. In modern times customs areas have largely made such entrepôts obsolete. This type of port should not be confused with the modern French usage of the word entrepôt, meaning warehouse.
Entrepôts were especially relevant in the Middle Ages and in the early modern period, when mercantile shipping flourished between Europe and its colonial empires in the Americas and Asia. For example, spice trade in Europe, coupled with the long trade routes necessary for their delivery, led to a much higher market price than the original buying price. However, traders often did not want to travel the whole route, and thus used the entrepôts on the way to sell their goods. However, this also led to even more attractive profits for those who persevered to travel the entire route. The 17th-century Amsterdam Entrepôt provides an example of such an early-modern entrepôt.
Examples of specific entrepôts at various periods include:
- Boma, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Cap-Vert, Senegal
- Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
- Dubai, UAE
- Fort Orange, (New Netherland), Albany, New York, US
- Hong Kong
- Kollam/Quilon, India
- Naha, Ryūkyū Kingdom
- New Orleans, Louisiana, US
- Saint Paul, Minnesota, US
- Salalah, Oman
- Tin Can Island Port, Nigeria
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- Organized Markets in Pre-industrial Europe (draft chapter of The Origins of Western Economic Success: Commerce, Finance, and Government in Pre-Industrial Europe) - Kohn, Meir, Department of Economics Dartmouth College, Hanover, 12 July 2003, Page 3, Retrieved 2007-08-19.
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