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Determinants of Bilateral Trade: Does Gravity Work in a Neoclassical World?

In: The Regionalization of the World Economy

  • Alan Deardorff

This paper derives bilateral trade from two cases of the Heckscher-Ohlin Model, both also representing a variety of other models as well. First is frictionless trade, in which the absence of all impediments to trade in homogeneous products causes producers and consumers to be indifferent among trading partners. Resolving this indifference randomly, expected trade flows correspond exactly to the simple frictionless gravity equation if preferences are identical and homothetic, or if demands are uncorrelated with supplies, and they depart from the gravity equation systematically when there are such correlations. In the second case, countries produce distinct goods, as in the H-O Model with complete specialization or a variety of other models, and preferences are either Cobb-Douglas or CES. Here trade tends to the standard gravity equation with trade declining in distance, with departures from it that depend on relative transport costs. Conclusions are, first, that even a simple gravity equation can be derived from standard trade theories, and second, that because the gravity equation characterizes many models, its use to test any of them is suspect.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Jeffrey A. Frankel, 1998. "The Regionalization of the World Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fran98-1, 07.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 7818.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:7818
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    1. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1975. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 64, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    2. Markusen, James R, 1986. "Explaining the Volume of Trade: An Eclectic Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1002-11, December.
    3. Dornbusch, Rudiger & Fischer, Stanley & Samuelson, Paul A, 1980. "Heckscher- Ohlin Trade Theory with a Continuum of Goods," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 203-24, September.
    4. Bergstrand, Jeffrey H, 1990. "The Heckscher-Ohlin-Samuelson Model, the Linder Hypothesis and the Determinants of Bilateral Intra-industry Trade," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(403), pages 1216-29, December.
    5. Anderson, James E, 1979. "A Theoretical Foundation for the Gravity Equation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(1), pages 106-16, March.
    6. Leamer, Edward E, 1974. "The Commodity Composition of International Trade in Manufactures: An Empirical Analysis," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(3), pages 350-74, November.
    7. Krugman, Paul R., 1979. "Increasing returns, monopolistic competition, and international trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 469-479, November.
    8. Bergstrand, Jeffrey H, 1985. "The Gravity Equation in International Trade: Some Microeconomic Foundations and Empirical Evidence," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(3), pages 474-81, August.
    9. Hummels, D. & Levinsohn, J., 1993. "Monopolistic Competition and International Trade: Reconsidering the Evidence," Working Papers 339, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
    10. Jeffrey A. Frankel & Ernesto Stein & Shang-Jin Wei, 1993. "Continental Trading Blocs: Are They Natural, or Super-Natural?," NBER Working Papers 4588, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Deardorff, Alan V., 1984. "Testing trade theories and predicting trade flows," Handbook of International Economics, in: R. W. Jones & P. B. Kenen (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 10, pages 467-517 Elsevier.
    12. Dornbusch, Rudiger & Fischer, Stanley & Samuelson, Paul A, 1977. "Comparative Advantage, Trade, and Payments in a Ricardian Model with a Continuum of Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(5), pages 823-39, December.
    13. Helpman, Elhanan, 1987. "Imperfect competition and international trade: Evidence from fourteen industrial countries," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 62-81, March.
    14. Bergstrand, Jeffrey H, 1989. "The Generalized Gravity Equation, Monopolistic Competition, and the Factor-Proportions Theory in International Trade," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(1), pages 143-53, February.
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