The Traders occurs twenty years before The Merchant Princes. The story describes the events of Limmar Ponyets, a Trader, who is sent to retrieve Eskel Gorov from the planet Askone. Askone has refused commerce with the Foundation in fear of control through Scientism. Eskel Gorov is awaiting execution for violation of a trade law by attempting to set up trade with Foundation technology.
The leaders of Askone are adamant in not accepting any Foundation technology, but when offered gold in exchange for the prisoner, they gladly accept. During Ponyets' presentation of the offered gold, he convinces Pherl - an aspiring leader in Askone's government - to accept technology that can transmute iron into gold. Unknown to Pherl, his transaction with Foundation technology was recorded and later used as blackmail, allowing Ponyet to exchange his cargo of Foundation technology for tin, a resource needed by the Foundation.
Pherl is now forced into accepting Foundation technology, and so will strive to make it acceptable among Askone's people.