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The trade reducing effects of market power in international shipping

  • Hummels, David
  • Lugovskyy, Volodymyr
  • Skiba, Alexandre

Developing countries pay substantially higher transportation costs than developed nations, which leads to less trade and perhaps lower incomes. This paper investigates price discrimination in the shipping industry and the role it plays in determining transportation costs. In the presence of market power, shipping prices depend on the demand characteristics of goods being traded. We show theoretically and estimate empirically that ocean cargo carriers charge higher prices when transporting goods with higher product prices, lower import demand elasticities, and higher tariffs, and when facing fewer competitors on a trade route. These characteristics explain more variation in shipping prices than do conventional proxies such as distance, and significantly contribute to the higher shipping prices facing the developing world. A simple back of the envelope calculation suggests that eliminating market power in shipping would boost trade volumes by 5.9% (for the US) to 15.2% (for Latin America). Our findings are also important for evaluating the impact of tariff liberalization. Cargo carriers decrease shipping prices by 1-2% for every 1% reduction in tariffs.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Development Economics.

Volume (Year): 89 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (May)
Pages: 84-97

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Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:89:y:2009:i:1:p:84-97
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  1. David H. Romer & Jeffrey A. Frankel, 1999. "Does Trade Cause Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 379-399, June.
  2. Christian Broda & David E. Weinstein, 2004. "Globalization and the Gains from Variety," NBER Working Papers 10314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  5. David Hummels & Georg Schaur, 2012. "Time as a Trade Barrier," NBER Working Papers 17758, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. David Hummels & Alexandre Skiba, 2004. "Shipping the Good Apples Out? An Empirical Confirmation of the Alchian-Allen Conjecture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1384-1402, December.
  7. Alexandre Skiba, 2007. "Regional Economies of Scale in Transportation and Regional Welfare," WORKING PAPERS SERIES IN THEORETICAL AND APPLIED ECONOMICS 200705, University of Kansas, Department of Economics, revised Sep 2007.
  8. Perloff,Jeffrey M. & Karp,Larry S. & Golan,Amos, 2007. "Estimating Market Power and Strategies," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521804400.
  9. Bruce A. Blonigen & Wesley Wilson, 2006. "New Measures of Port Efficiency Using International Trade Data," NBER Working Papers 12052, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Clark, Ximena & Dollar, David & Micco, Alejandro, 2004. "Port efficiency, maritime transport costs, and bilateral trade," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 417-450, December.
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  13. Feenstra, Robert C, 1994. "New Product Varieties and the Measurement of International Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 157-77, March.
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