In recent decades, advances in information and communication technology and falling trade barriers have led firms to retain within their boundaries and in their domestic economies only a subset of their production stages. A key decision facing firms worldwide is the extent of control to exert over the different segments of their production processes. We describe a property-rights model of firm boundary choices along the value chain that generalizes Antràs and Chor (2013). To assess the evidence, we construct firm-level measures of the upstreamness of integrated and non-integrated inputs by combining information on the production activities of firms operating in more than 100 countries with Input-Output tables. In line with the model's predictions, we find that whether a firm integrates upstream or downstream suppliers depends crucially on the elasticity of demand for its final product. Moreover, a firm's propensity to integrate a given stage of the value chain is shaped by the relative contractibility of the stages located upstream versus downstream from that stage, as well as by the firm's productivity. Our results suggest that contractual frictions play an important role in shaping the integration choices of firms around the world.
This paper studies the welfare implications of trade opening in a world in which trade raises aggregate income but also increases income inequality, and in which redistribution needs to occur via a distortionary income tax-transfer system. We provide tools to characterize and quantify the effects of trade opening on the distribution of disposable income (after redistribution). We propose two adjustments to standard measures of the welfare gains from trade: a `welfarist' correction inspired by the Atkinson (1970) index of inequality, and a `costly-redistribution' correction capturing the efficiency costs associated with the behavioral responses of agents to trade-induced shifts across marginal tax rates. We calibrate our model to the United States over the period 1979-2007 using data on the distribution of adjusted gross income in public samples of IRS tax returns, as well as CBO information on the tax liabilities and transfers received by agents at different percentiles of the U.S. income distribution. Our quantitative results suggest that these corrections are nonnegligible: trade-induced increases in inequality of disposable income erode about 20% of the gains from trade, while the gains from trade would be about 15% larger if redistribution was carried out via non-distortionary means.
We develop a quantifiable multi-country sourcing model in which firms self-select into importing based on their productivity and country-specific variables. In contrast to canonical export models where firm profits are additively separable across destination markets, global sourcing decisions naturally interact through the firm's cost function. We show that, under an empirically relevant condition, selection into importing exhibits complementarities across source markets. We exploit these complementarities to solve the firm's problem and estimate the model. Comparing counterfactual predictions to reduced-form evidence highlights the importance of interdependencies in firms' sourcing decisions across markets, which generate heterogeneous domestic sourcing responses to trade shocks.
This paper analyzes the financing terms that support international trade and sheds light on how these terms shape the impact of economic shocks on trade. Analysis of transaction-level data from a U.S.-based exporter of frozen and refrigerated food products, primarily poultry, reveals broad patterns about the use of alternative financing terms. These patterns help discipline a model in which the choice of trade finance terms is shaped by the risk that an importer defaults on an exporter and by the possibility that an exporter does not deliver goods as specified in the contract. The empirical results indicate that cash in advance and open account terms are much more commonly used than letter of credit and documentary collection terms. Transactions are more likely to occur on cash in advance or letter of credit terms when the importer is located in a country with weak contractual enforcement. As an importer develops a relationship with the exporter, transactions are less likely to occur on terms that require prepayment. During the recent crisis, the exporter was more likely to demand cash in advance terms when transacting with new customers, and customers that traded on cash in advance and letter of credit terms prior to the crisis decreased their purchases by 17.3% more than other customers. The model illustrates that these findings can be rationalized if (i) misbehavior on the part of the exporter is of little concern to importers, and (ii) local banks in importing countries are more effective than the exporter in pursuing financial claims against importers.
This article reviews the state of the international trade literature on multinational firms. This literature addresses three main questions. First, why do some firms operate in more than one country while others do not? Second, what determines in which countries production facilities are located? Finally, why do firms own foreign facilities rather than simply contract with local producers or distributors? We organize our exposition of the trade literature on multinational firms around the workhorse monopolistic competition model with constant-elasticity-of-substitution (CES) preferences. On the theoretical side, we review alternative ways to introduce multinational activity into this unifying framework, illustrating some key mechanisms emphasized in the literature. On the empirical side, we discuss the key studies and provide updated empirical results and further robustness tests using new sources of data.
I survey the influence of Grossman and Hart's (1986. “The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration,” 94 Journal of Political Economy 691–719.) seminal paper in the field of International Trade. I discuss the implementation of the theory in open-economy environments and its implications for the international organization of production and the structure of international trade flows. I also review empirical work suggestive of the empirical relevance of the property-rights theory. Along the way, I develop novel theoretical results and also outline some of the key limitations of existing contributions. (JEL D23, F10, F12, F14, F21, F23, L22, L23).
We develop a property-rights model of the ﬁrm in which production entails a continuum of uniquely sequenced stages. In each stage, a ﬁnal-good producer contracts with a distinct supplier for the procurement of a customized stage-speciﬁc component. Our model yields a sharp characterization for the optimal allocation of ownership rights along the value chain. We show that the incentive to integrate suppliers varies systematically with the relative position (upstream versus downstream) at which the supplier enters the production line. Furthermore, the nature of the relationship between integration and “downstreamness” depends crucially on the elasticity of demand faced by the ﬁnal-good producer. Our model readily accommodates various sources of asymmetry across ﬁnal-good producers and across suppliers within a production line, and we show how it can be taken to the data with international trade statistics. Combining data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Related Party Trade database and estimates of U.S. import demand elasticities from Broda and Weinstein (2006), we ﬁnd empirical evidence broadly supportive of our key predictions. In the process, we develop two novel measures of the average position of an industry in the value chain, which we construct using U.S. Input-Output Tables.
According to the terms-of-trade theory, negotiations over tariffs alone, coupled with an effective market access preservation rule, can bring governments to the efficiency frontier. In this paper, we show that the nature of international price determination is important for this central result of the terms-of-trade theory. While the received theory assumes that international prices are fully disciplined by aggregate market clearing conditions, we show here that support for "shallow" integration is overturned, and instead a need for "deep" integration is suggested ? wherein direct negotiations occur over both border and behind-the-border policies ? if international prices are determined through bargaining.
We propose two distinct approaches to the measurement of industry upstreamness (or average distance from final use) and show that they yield an equivalent measure. Furthermore, we provide two additional interpretations of this measure, one of them related to the concept of forward linkages. We construct this measure for 426 industries using the 2002 US input-output Tables. We also construct our measure using data from selected countries in the OECD STAN database. Finally, we present an application of our measure that explores the determinants of the average upstreamness of exports at the country level using trade flows for 2002.
The rise of offshoring of intermediate inputs raises important questions for commercial policy. Do the distinguishing features of offshoring introduce novel reasons for trade policy intervention? Does offshoring create new problems of global policy cooperation whose solutions require international agreements with novel features? In this paper we provide answers to these questions, and thereby initiate the study of trade agreements in the presence of offshoring. We argue that the rise of offshoring will make it increasingly difficult for governments to rely on traditional GATT/WTO concepts and rules -- such as market access, reciprocity and non-discrimination -- to solve their trade-related problems. (JEL F12, F13, L24)
This paper analyzes the effects of the formation of a regional trade agreement on the level and nature of multinational firm activity. We examine aggregate data that captures the response of U.S. multinational firms to the formation of the ASEAN free trade agreement. Observed patterns guide the development of a model in which heterogeneous firms from a source country decide how to serve two foreign markets. Following a reduction in tariffs on trade between the two foreign countries, the model predicts growth in the number of source-country firms engaging in foreign direct investment, growth in the size of affiliates that are active in reforming countries both before and after the tariff reduction, and an increase in the extent to which the sales of affiliates in reforming countries are directed towards other reforming countries. Analysis of firm-level responses to the creation of the ASEAN free trade agreement yields results that are consistent with these predictions.
How do foreign interests influence policy? How are trade policies and the viability of trade agreements affected? What are the welfare implications of such foreign influence? In this paper we develop a model of foreign influence and apply it to the study of optimal tariffs. In a two-country voting model of electoral competition, we allow the incumbent party in each country to take costly actions that probabilistically affect the electoral outcome in the other country. We show that policies end up maximizing a weighted sum of domestic and foreign welfare. Using this formulation we show that foreign influence increases aggregate world welfare when there are no other means of alleviating the externalities that arise from cross-border effects of policies. In contrast, when countries can engage in international agreements, foreign influence can prove harmful as powerful countries may refuse to offer concessions. We also show that power imbalances are particularly detrimental to cooperation when they are positively correlated with economic size.
This paper develops a simple model of international trade with intermediation. We consider an economy with two islands and two types of agents, farmers and traders. Farmers can produce two goods, but to sell these goods in centralized (Walrasian) markets, they need to be matched with a trader, and this entails costly search. In the absence of search frictions, our model reduces to a standard Ricardian model of trade. We use this simple model to contrast the implications of changes in the integration of Walrasian markets, which allow traders from different islands to exchange their goods, and changes in the access to these Walrasian markets, which allow farmers to trade with traders from different islands. We find that intermediation always magnifies the gains from trade under the former type of integration, but leads to more nuanced welfare results under the latter, including the possibility of aggregate losses.
We study how financial frictions and the saving rate shape the long-run effects of trade liberalization on income, consumption and the distribution of wealth in financially underdeveloped
economies. In our model, regardless of whether the capital account is open or not, trade liberalization reduces the share of wealth in the hands of entrepreneurs and may well reduce steady
state consumption and income. Furthermore, trade opening is more likely to reduce steady-state consumption and output, the higher is the level of financial development. For economies with an
open capital account, a higher saving rate also increases the likelihood that a trade liberalization leads to a reduction in steady-state consumption and output.
The three central primitives of international trade theory are consumer preferences, factor endowments, and the production technologies that allow firms to transform factors of production into consumer goods. A limitation of traditional trade theory, however, is that the specification of technology treats the mapping between factors of production and final goods as a black box. In practice, the decisions of agents in organizations determine this mapping. Recently, international trade economists have incorporated insights from the field of Organizational Economics into their theories, thereby shedding new light on the mapping between factors of production and consumer goods. This research agenda is important for at least three reasons. First, it provides an explanation for phenomena that standard trade theory is unable to explain (such as the boundaries and hierarchical structure of multinational firms, or the determinants of intrafirm trade). Second, this literature illustrates how considering the endogenous response of organizations to changes in the economic environment (such as falling trade costs, declining communication costs, or improvements in contract enforcement) can dramatically affect or even overturn some predictions of standard models. Third, this line of models leads to a revision of key aspects of the design of efficient international trade agreements.
What follows is a brief account of some of my own contributions to the literature on international trade and organizations. In my joint survey article with Esteban Rossi-Hansberg,1 we have attempted to provide a more balanced overview of this literature.
We survey an emerging literature at the intersection of organizational economics and international trade. We argue that a proper modeling of the organizational aspects of production provides valuable insights on the aggregate workings of the world economy. In reviewing the literature, we describe certain predictions of standard models that are affected or even overturned when organizational decisions are brought into the analysis. We also suggest potentially fruitful areas for future research.
This paper examines how costly ﬁnancial contracting and weak investor protection inﬂuence the cross-border operational, ﬁnancing, and investment decisions of ﬁrms. We develop a model in which product developers can play a useful role in monitoring the deployment of their technology abroad. The analysis demonstrates that when ﬁrms want to exploit technologies abroad, multinational ﬁrm (MNC) activity and foreign direct investment (FDI) ﬂows arise endogenously when monitoring is nonveriﬁable and ﬁnancial frictions exist. The mechanism generating MNC activity is not the risk of technological expropriation by local partners but the demands of external funders who require MNC participation to ensure value maximization by local entrepreneurs. The model demonstrates that weak investor protections limit the scale of MNC activity, increase the reliance on FDI ﬂows, and alter the decision to deploy technology through FDI as opposed to arm’s length technology transfers. Several distinctive predictions for the impact of weak investor protection on MNC activity and FDI ﬂows are tested and conﬁrmed using ﬁrm-level data.
The classical Heckscher-Ohlin-Mundell paradigm states that trade and capital mobility are substitutes in the sense that trade integration reduces the incentives for capital to ﬂow to capital-scarce countries. In this paper we show that in a world with heterogeneous ﬁnancial development, a very different conclusion emerges. In particular, in less ﬁnancially developed economies (South), trade and capital mobility are complements in the sense that trade integration increases the return to capital and thus the incentives for capital to ﬂow to South. This interaction implies that deepening trade integration in South raises net capital inﬂows (or reduces net capital outﬂows). It also implies that, at the global level, protectionism may backﬁre if the goal is to rebalance capital ﬂows.