The upcoming My Colony v1.5.0 is making some fairly substantial changes to the way importing/exporting and auto trade works. These changes are something of a conglomeration of different ideas posted about the system in the suggestions forum.
Beginning with the coming update, once you have unlocked the Galactic Board of Trade (or the equivalent building for the other civs), Importing and Exporting resources can then be conducted centrally from the GBT without going to one of the individual import/export buildings. The GBT also unlocks import/export for all resources available on the GBT. Importing and exporting from the GBT gives you the same trade capacity as you would have for buying/selling contracts on the GBT.
When you conduct an import or an export, whether from the GBT or one of the individual buildings, the quantity you bought or sold is now submitted to the server and applied to a "global resource pool." The global resource pool can never run out, so you will always be able to import. However, the pool levels serve to track global trade demand. So (for example) if the global resource pool for a particular resource has run completely dry, this will place upward pressures on the GBT price for these goods, encouraging increased production and sell contracts. The server will also be able to consume GBT contracts in order to restock the global resource pool (contract owner will get paid), if contracts are available.
In addition to this, auto-trade now uses the Import/Export system instead of creating GBT contracts. This means that the prices you get for goods are worse, but it also means that you wont have tons of unsold contracts. The goods you buy and sell on autotrade go through the same global resource pool as regular imports and exports, and will impact prices accordingly.
Of course this change allows you to do things you couldn't before, such as import Ether and Cobalt. I think this is ok though, since it is only allowed once you have the GBT constructed, at which point you could purchase those goods on the market anyway, although this does let you purchase them when none would have otherwise been available. This will however raise the global price of said goods, which should increase production anyway, so I think it will all work out.
This also allows you to sell resources on auto-trade that normally have no demand, such as Food and Water, etc. Again, the prices you get will not be great, but they will be better than the 0 that you would normally get from a returned contract that expired on the GBT.
Regardless, with this new system most of the changes are being done server-side, so they can be tweaked without the need to release a patch to the game, so I think it will all work out. The main idea is to get the auto-trades off of the GBT, which has become flooded with rubbish. The GBT will now be exclusively used for real trades posted by real people.