Purpose: In the mainstream relationship management literature, critical appraisal of the relationship paradigm in an international setting is virtually non-existent. The extant literature reveals a gap in terms of linking relationship management theories with international management. Furthermore, little research attention has been paid to synthesise the existing theories in a cohesive manner towards developing a theoretical paradigm in the interface of the importer-supplier relationship dyad. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to strengthen the theoretical grounds of relationship marketing in an international setting in an importer-exporter relationship context. Design/methodology/approach: The paper follows a comprehensive review approach and applies the fundamental theory of trust and commitment to identify the relational factors. More precisely, the paper identifies and applies other relevant theories such as internationalisation process theory, resource-based theory of the firm, dependence theory and transaction cost theory in developing an innovative theoretical paradigm. Findings: Based on the integration of extant theories, this paper proposes a new direction in the theoretical realm of the trust and commitment building process within an importer and supplier relationship management paradigm. The research concludes that trust and commitment are the focal factors within the international relational paradigm. Research limitations/implications: The proposed research direction suggests an emerging framework integrating mainstream theoretical variables of trust and commitment in importer and foreign-supplier context. This novel framework has the potential for use in further research. Originality/value: This paper advances a grounded theoretical exploration within an international management domain in the context of importers and foreign-suppliers.