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Incomplete contracts and the boundaries of the multinational firm

  • Nunn, Nathan
  • Trefler, Daniel

Using data on U.S. intra-firm and arm's-length imports for 5705 products imported from 220 countries, we examine the determinants of the share of U.S. imports that are intra-firm. We examine two predictions that arise from Antràs (2003), Antràs and Helpman (2008) and Antràs and Helpman (2004). First, we find that, consistent with the implicit logic of Antràs (2003) and the explicit predictions of Antràs and Helpman (2008), vertical integration is increasing in the importance of non-contractible headquarter inputs relative to non-contractible supplier inputs. In other words, we show that only non-contractible headquarter inputs affect the firm's make-or-buy decision. Second, we also provide empirical support for the Antràs and Helpman (2004) prediction that intra-firm trade is largest where non-contractible headquarter inputs are important and productivity is high.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 94 (2013)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 330-344

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:94:y:2013:i:c:p:330-344
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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  1. Antras, Pol, 2003. "Firms, Contracts, and Trade Structure," Scholarly Articles 3196328, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Elhanan Helpman, 2006. "Trade, FDI, and the Organization of Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 44(3), pages 589-630, September.
  3. Pol Antras, 2004. "Incomplete Contracts and the Product Cycle," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 62, Econometric Society.
  4. Grossman, Gene M. & Helpman, Elhanan, 2004. "Managerial incentives and the international organization of production," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 237-262, July.
  5. John McLaren, 2000. ""Globalization" and Vertical Structure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1239-1254, December.
  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..
  7. Stephen Ross Yeaple, 2006. "Offshoring, Foreign Direct Investment, and the Structure of U.S. Trade," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(2-3), pages 602-611, 04-05.
  8. Nunn, Nathan, 2007. "Relationship-Specificity, Incomplete Contracts, and the Pattern of Trade," Scholarly Articles 4686801, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  9. Yeaple, Stephen & Helpman, Elhanan & Melitz, Marc, 2004. "Export versus FDI with Heterogeneous Firms," Scholarly Articles 3229098, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  10. Grossman, Gene & Helpman, Elhanan, 2002. "Outsourcing Versus FDI in Industry Equilibrium," CEPR Discussion Papers 3647, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. 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.
  12. Pol Antras & Elhanan Helpman, 2004. "Global Sourcing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(3), pages 552-580, June.
  13. Peter K. Schott, 2004. "Across-Product Versus Within-Product Specialization in International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 647-678.
  14. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2002. "Integration versus Outsourcing in Industry Equilibrium," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 85-120.
  15. repec:hrv:faseco:4784029 is not listed on IDEAS
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