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Firms, Contracts, and Trade Structure

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  • Antras, Pol

Abstract

Roughly one-third of world trade is intrafirm trade. This paper starts by unveiling two systematic patterns in the volume of intrafirm trade. In a panel of industries, the share of intrafirm imports in total U. S. imports is significantly higher, the higher the capital intensity of the exporting industry. In a cross section of countries the share of intrafirm imports in total U. S. imports is significantly higher, the higher the capital-labor ratio of the exporting country. I then show that these patterns can be rationalized in a theoretical framework that combines a Grossman-Hart-Moore view of the firm with a Helpman-Krugman view of international trade. In particular, I develop an incomplete-contracting, property-rights model of the boundaries of the firm, which I then incorporate into a standard trade model with imperfect competition and product differentiation. The model pins down the boundaries of multinational firms as well as the international location of production, and it is shown to predict the patterns of intrafirm trade identified above. Econometric evidence reveals that the model is consistent with other qualitative and quantitative features of the data.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 3196328.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Publication status: Published in Quarterly Journal of Economics
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3196328

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  1. Helpman, Elhanan, 1984. "A Simple Theory of International Trade with Multinational Corporations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 451-71, June.
  2. Aghion, P. & Dewatripont, M. & Rey, P., 1990. "On renegotiation design," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(2-3), pages 322-329, May.
  3. James R. Markusen & Keith E. Maskus, 2001. "General-Equilibrium Approaches to the Multinational Firm: A Review of Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 8334, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Gene Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2001. "Integration vs. Outsourcing in Industry Equilibrium," CESifo Working Paper Series 460, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2002. "Outsourcing in a Global Economy," Working Papers 149, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics..
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  7. John McLaren, 2000. ""Globalization" and Vertical Structure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1239-1254, December.
  8. Aghion, Philippe & Dewatripont, Mathias & Rey, Patrick, 1994. "Renegotiation Design with Unverifiable Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 257-82, March.
  9. Brainard, S Lael, 1997. "An Empirical Assessment of the Proximity-Concentration Trade-off between Multinational Sales and Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 520-44, September.
  10. Marin, Dalia & Verdier, Thierry, 2002. "Power Inside the Firm and the Market: a General Equilibrium Approach," CEPR Discussion Papers 3526, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Jean Tirole, 1988. "The Theory of Industrial Organization," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262200716, January.
  12. Hart, Oliver D. & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Scholarly Articles 3448675, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  13. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker Than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116, February.
  14. Zhang, Kevin Honglin & Markusen, James R., 1999. "Vertical multinationals and host-country characteristics," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 233-252, August.
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  16. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 691-719, August.
  17. Markusen, James R., 1984. "Multinationals, multi-plant economies, and the gains from trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 205-226, May.
  18. Georg Nöldeke & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1992. "Option Contracts and Renegotiation - A Solution to the Hold-Up Problem," Discussion Paper Serie A 417, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Aug 1993.
  19. Ethier, Wilfred J. & Markusen, James R., 1996. "Multinational firms, technology diffusion and trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1-2), pages 1-28, August.
  20. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1994. "The Firm as an Incentive System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 972-91, September.
  21. Che, Y.K. & Hausch, D.B., 1997. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting," Working papers 9714, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  22. Aoki, Masahiko, 1990. "Toward an Economic Model of the Japanese Firm," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 28(1), pages 1-27, March.
  23. Hart, Oliver, 1995. "Firms, Contracts, and Financial Structure," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288817.
  24. John Romalis, 2004. "Factor Proportions and the Structure of Commodity Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 67-97, March.
  25. Cohen, Wesley M & Klepper, Steven, 1992. "The Anatomy of Industry R&D Intensity Distributions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 773-99, September.
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