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On the evolution of comparative advantage: path-dependent versus path-defying changes

Author

Listed:
  • Nicola Daniele Coniglio

    () (Università degli Studi di Bari "Aldo Moro")

  • Davide Vurchio

    () (Università di Roma 3)

  • Nicola Cantore

    () (UNIDO)

  • Michele Clara

    () (UNIDO)

Abstract

The diversification of production and trade is considered almost unanimously a fundamental policy goal, particularly for developing economies whose export baskets are heavily concentrated on a few products. In what direction trade diversification ought to take place is, however, subject to fierce debate. The Product Space (PS) framework (Hausmann and Klinger, 2007; Hidalgo et al. 2007) is a recent contribution in the economic literature that has proved very influential in policy circles. It argues that the endowment of production capabilities (technologies, production factors, institutions etc.) determines what countries produce today but it also constrains what they can produce in the future as it is uncommon that countries develop a comparative advantage in goods that do not draw from the same pool of capabilities (unrelated products). Contributions along such line argue that defying the initial comparative advantage can be a risky policy decision with high probability of failure. The main objective of this contribution is to use a novel methodology to investigate whether the patterns of diversification of a sample of 177 countries over the period 1995-2015 conform or not to the prediction of the PS framework. We find evidence of a high degree of path-dependence but our analysis suggests also that a significant number of new products that entered countries’ export baskets were unrelated to the initial productive specialization (path-defying changes). We shed light on the determinants of these ‘radical’ patterns of diversification and show they are associated with higher economic growth. The results of this study have important policy implications in particular for the design of industrial policies aimed at actively shaping countries’ structural transformation.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicola Daniele Coniglio & Davide Vurchio & Nicola Cantore & Michele Clara, 2018. "On the evolution of comparative advantage: path-dependent versus path-defying changes," SERIES 01-2018, Dipartimento di Economia e Finanza - Università degli Studi di Bari "Aldo Moro", revised Mar 2018.
  • Handle: RePEc:bai:series:series_wp_01-2018
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    Cited by:

    1. Giovanni Dosi & Matteo Tranchero, 2018. "The Role of Comparative Advantage, Endowments and Technology in Structural Transformation," LEM Papers Series 2018/33, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    2. Andrzej Cieœlik & Aleksandra Parteka, 2018. "Export Variety, Productivity, And Country Size In A Multi-Good Ricardian Model Of Export Diversification," GUT FME Working Paper Series A 52, Faculty of Management and Economics, Gdansk University of Technology.
    3. Ron Boschma, 2018. "The geographical dimension of structural change," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1839, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Nov 2018.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    path-dependence; product space; trade diversification; industrial policy;

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights

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