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Estimating the Effects of the Container Revolution on World Trade

  • Daniel M. Bernhofen
  • Zouheir El-Sahli
  • Richard Kneller

The introduction of containerization triggered complementary technological and organizational changes that revolutionized global freight transport. Despite numerous claims about the importance of containerization in stimulating international trade, econometric estimates on the effects of containerization on trade appear to be missing. Our paper fills this gap in the literature. Our key idea is to exploit time and cross-sectional variation in countries’ adoption of port or railway container facilities to construct a time-varying bilateral technology variable and estimate its effect on explaining variations in bilateral product level trade flows in a large panel for the period 1962-1990. Our estimates suggest that containerization did not only stimulate trade in containerizable products (like auto parts) but also had complementary effects on non-containerizables (like automobiles). As expected, we find larger effects on North-North trade than on North-South or South-South trade and much smaller effects when ignoring railway containerization. Regarding North-North trade, the cumulative average treatment effects of containerization over a 20 year time period amount to about 700%, can be interpreted as causal, and are much larger than the effects of free trade agreements or the GATT. In a nutshell, we provide the first econometric evidence for containerization to be a driver of 20th century economic globalization.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2013/wp-cesifo-2013-02/cesifo1_wp4136.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 4136.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4136
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  1. Kei-Mu Yi, 2000. "Can vertical specialization explain the growth of world trade?," Staff Reports 96, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  2. Baier, Scott L. & Bergstrand, Jeffrey H., 2001. "The growth of world trade: tariffs, transport costs, and income similarity," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 1-27, February.
  3. Scott L. Baier & Jeffrey H. Bergstrand, 2005. "Do free trade agreements actually increase members’ international trade?," Working Paper 2005-03, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  4. David Hummels, 2007. "Transportation Costs and International Trade in the Second Era of Globalization," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 131-154, Summer.
  5. Bruce A. Blonigen & Wesley W. Wilson, 2008. "Port Efficiency and Trade Flows," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(1), pages 21-36, 02.
  6. Mokyr, Joel, 1992. "The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195074772, March.
  7. Theo Notteboom & Jean-Paul Rodrigue, 2008. "Containerisation, Box Logistics and Global Supply Chains: The Integration of Ports and Liner Shipping Networks," Maritime Economics and Logistics, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 10(1-2), pages 152-174, March.
  8. Ximena Clark & David Dollar & Alejandro Micco, 2004. "Port Efficiency, Maritime Transport Costs and Bilateral Trade," NBER Working Papers 10353, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Robert C. Feenstra & Robert E. Lipsey & Haiyan Deng & Alyson C. Ma & Hengyong Mo, 2005. "World Trade Flows: 1962-2000," NBER Working Papers 11040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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