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Trading Tasks: A Simple Theory of Offshoring

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  • Gene M. Grossman
  • Esteban Rossi-Hansberg

Abstract

For centuries, most international trade involved an exchange of complete goods. But, with recent improvements in transportation and communications technology, it increasingly entails different countries adding value to global supply chains, or what might be called "trade in tasks." We propose a new conceptualization of the global production process that focuses on tradable tasks and use it to study how falling costs of offshoring affect factor prices in the source country. We identify a productivity effect of task trade that benefits the factor whose tasks are more easily moved offshore. In the light of this effect, reductions in the cost of trading tasks can generate shared gains for all domestic factors, in contrast to the distributional conflict that typically results from reductions in the cost of trading goods.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12721.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
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Publication status: published as Gene M. Grossman & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2008. "Trading Tasks: A Simple Theory of Offshoring," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1978-97, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12721

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  1. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond J. Mataloni & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2003. "Vertical Production Networks in Multinational Firms," NBER Working Papers 9723, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond J. Mataloni, Jr. & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2001. "Expansion Strategies of U.S. Multinational Firms," NBER Working Papers 8433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  6. 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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  8. Marin, Dalia & Verdier, Thierry, 2012. "Globalization and the empowerment of talent," Munich Reprints in Economics 19254, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  9. Pol Antràs & Luis Garicano & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2005. "Offshoring in a Knowledge Economy," Discussion Papers 04-020, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
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  21. repec:hrv:faseco:4784029 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2002. "Integration Versus Outsourcing In Industry Equilibrium," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(1), pages 85-120, February.
  23. Antras, Pol, 2003. "Firms, Contracts, and Trade Structure," Scholarly Articles 3196328, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  25. David Hummels & Dana Rapoport & Kei-Mu Yi, 1998. "Vertical specialization and the changing nature of world trade," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Jun, pages 79-99.
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