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Food Prices and the Multiplier Effect of Export Policy

  • Paolo E. Giordani
  • Nadia Rocha
  • Michele Ruta

This paper studies the relationship between export policy and food prices. We show that, when individuals are loss averse, food exporters may use trade policy to shield the domestic economy from large price shocks. This creates a complementarity between the price of food in international markets and export policy. Specifically, unilateral actions by exporting countries give rise to a "multiplier effect": when a shock in the international food market drives up (down) its price, governments respond by imposing export restrictions (subsidies), thus exacerbating the initial shock and soliciting further export activism. We test this theory with a new dataset that comprises monthly information on trade measures across 125 countries and 29 food products for the period 2008-10, finding evidence of a multiplier effect. Global restrictions in a product (i.e. the share of international trade covered by export restrictions) are positively correlated with the probability of imposing a new export restriction on that product, especially for staple foods. Large exporters are found to be more reactive to restrictive measures, suggesting that the multiplier effect is mostly driven by this group. Finally, we estimate that a 1 per cent surge in global restrictions increased international food prices by 1.1 per cent on average during 2008-10. These findings contribute to inform the broader debate on the proper regulation of export policy within the multilateral trading system.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2012/wp-cesifo-2012-04/cesifo1_wp3783.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3783.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3783
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  1. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 2000. "Strategic Trade, Competitive Industries and Agricultural Trade Disputes," NBER Working Papers 7822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. Martin, Will & Anderson, Kym, 2011. "Export restrictions and price insulation during commodity price booms," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5645, The World Bank.
  11. Cooper, Russell & John, Andrew, 1988. "Coordinating Coordination Failures in Keynesian Models," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 103(3), pages 441-63, August.
  12. Kamal Saggi & Nuno Limao, 2011. "Size Inequality, Coordination Externalities and International Trade Agreements," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 1115, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  13. Bouet, Antoine & Laborde Debucquet, David, 2010. "Economics of export taxation in a context of food crisis," IFPRI discussion papers 994, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  14. Tovar, Patricia, 2009. "The effects of loss aversion on trade policy: Theory and evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 154-167, June.
  15. Headey, Derek, 2011. "Rethinking the global food crisis: The role of trade shocks," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 136-146, April.
  16. Piermartini, Roberta, 2004. "The role of export taxes in the field of primary commodities," WTO Discussion Papers 4, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.
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