This paper surveys the recent body of work in economics on the importance of global value chains (GVCs) in shaping international trade flows and multinational activity. On the empirical front, we begin reviewing several variants of the "macro approach" to measuring the relevance of global production sharing in the world economy, and we also offer a critical evaluation of the country- and industry-level datasets (or World Input Output Tables) that have been used to date. We next discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a burgeoning alternative "micro approach" that has instead employed firm-level datasets to document the ways in which firms have sliced up their value chains across countries. On the theoretical front, we propose an analogous dissection of the literature. First, we review a vast body of work developing country- and industry-level quantitative frameworks that are easily calibrated with World Input Output Tables, and that open the door for counterfactual exercises with minimal demands on estimation. Second, we overview micro-level frameworks that have treated firms rather than countries or industries as the relevant unit of analysis, and that have unveiled a number of distinctive mechanisms by which GVCs shape the determinants and consequences of international trade flows in ways distinct from traditional models of international trade. We close this survey with a discussion of a still infant literature on the desirability and effects of trade policy in a world of GVCs.
This paper evaluates the extent to which the world economy has entered a phase of de-globalisation, and it offers some speculative thoughts on the future of global value chains in the post-COVID-19 age. Although the growth of international trade flows relative to that of GDP has slowed down since the Great Recession, this paper finds little systematic evidence indicating that the world economy has already entered an era of de-globalisation. Instead, the observed slowdown in globalization is a natural sequel to the unsustainable increase in globalization experienced in the late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. I offer a description of the mechanisms leading to that earlier expansionary phase, together with a discussion of why these forces might have run out of steam, and of the extent to which they may be reversible. I conclude that the main challenge for the future of globalisation is institutional and political in nature rather than technological, although new technologies might aggravate the trends in inequality that have created the current political backlash against globalisation. Zooming in on the COVID-19 global pandemic, I similarly conclude that the current health crisis may further darken the future of globalisation if it aggravates policy tensions across countries.
We exploit plausibly exogenous geographical variation in the reduction in domestic demand caused by the Great Recession in Spain to document the existence of a robust, within-firm negative causal relationship between demand-driven changes in domestic sales and export flows. Spanish manufacturing firms whose domestic sales were reduced by more during the crisis observed a larger increase in their export flows, even after controlling for firms' supply determinants (such as labor costs). This negative relationship between demand-driven changes in domestic sales and changes in export flows illustrates the capacity of export markets to counteract the negative impact of local demand shocks. We rationalize our findings through a standard heterogeneous-firm model of exporting expanded to allow for non-constant marginal costs of production. Using a structurally estimated version of this model, we conclude that the firm-level responses to the slump in domestic demand in Spain could well have accounted for around one-half of the spectacular increase in Spanish goods exports (the so-called `Spanish export miracle') over the period 2009-13.
This article offers an overview of some key conceptual aspects associated with the rise of global value chains (GVCs). It outlines a series of alternative interpretations and definitions of what the rise of GVCs entails, and it traces the implications of these alternative conceptualizations for the measurement of the phenomenon, as well as for elucidating the key determinants and implications of GVC participation, both at the country level and at the firm level. In the process, it offers some speculative thoughts about the future of GVCs in light of the advent of an array of new technologies.
This paper develops a multi-stage general-equilibrium model of global value chains (GVCs) and studies the specialization of countries within GVCs in a world with barriers to international trade. With costly trade, the optimal location of production of a given stage in a GVC is not only a function of the marginal cost at which that stage can be produced in a given country, but is also shaped by the proximity of that location to the precedent and the subsequent desired locations of production. We show that, other things equal, it is optimal to locate relatively downstream stages of production in relatively central locations. We also develop and estimate a tractable, quantifiable version of our model that illustrates how changes in trade costs affect the extent to which various countries participate in domestic, regional or global value chains, and traces the real income consequences of these changes.
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 offers four contributions to the empirical literature on global value chains (GVCs). First, we provide a succinct overview of several measures developed to capture the upstreamness or downstreamness of industries and countries in GVCs. Second, we employ data from the World Input-Output Database (WIOD) to document the empirical evolution of these measures over the period 1995-2011; in doing so, we highlight salient patterns related to countries' GVC positioning - as well as some puzzling correlations - that emerge from the data. Third, we develop a theoretical framework - which builds on Caliendo and Parro's (2015) variant of the Eaton and Kortum (2002) model - that provides a structural interpretation of all the entries of the WIOD in a given year. Fourth, we resort to a calibrated version of the model to perform counterfactual exercises that: (i) sharpen our understanding of the independent effect of several factors in explaining the observed empirical patterns in the period 1995-2011; and (ii) provide guidance for how future changes in the world economy are likely to shape the positioning of countries in GVCs.
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.