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The Tip of the Iceberg: Modeling Trade Costs and Implications for Intra-Industry Reallocation

  • Irarrazabal, Alfonso
  • Moxnes, Andreas
  • Opromolla, Luca David

When trade costs are of the iceberg type (Samuelson 1952) and markups are independent of trade costs, relative prices across markets are distorted, but relative prices within markets are not. When trade costs depart from the analytically convenient iceberg type, distortion will also occur within markets. In this paper we build a heterogeneous firm model of trade that allows for both iceberg and per-unit costs. An important theoretical finding is that these within-market distortions create an additional channel of gains from trade through within-industry reallocation. We fit the model to firm-level export data, by product and destination, using a novel minimum distance estimator and find that average per-unit costs, expressed relative to the consumer price, are 35-45%, depending on the elasticity of substitution. The pure iceberg model is therefore rejected. Finally, we calibrate the model and quantify the costs of protectionism. Simulations indicate that the welfare costs are roughly 50% higher when tariffs are per-unit compared to when they are iceberg.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7685.

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Date of creation: Feb 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7685
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  1. Eaton, Jonathan & Kortum, Samuel S & Kramarz, Francis, 2009. "An Anatomy of International Trade: Evidence from French Firms," CEPR Discussion Papers 7111, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth Rogoff, 2001. "The Six Major Puzzles in International Macroeconomics: Is There a Common Cause?," International Trade 0012003, EconWPA.
  3. Berman, Nicolas & Martin, Philippe & Mayer, Thierry, 2009. "How do different exporters react to exchange rate changes? Theory, empirics and aggregate implications," CEPR Discussion Papers 7493, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Peter K. Schott, 2006. "Transfer Pricing by U.S.-Based Multinational Firms," NBER Working Papers 12493, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Costas Arkolakis & Arnaud Costinot & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 2012. "New Trade Models, Same Old Gains?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 94-130, February.
  6. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
  7. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
  8. Erzo G. J. Luttmer, 2007. "Selection, Growth, and the Size Distribution of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1103-1144, 08.
  9. Timothy J. Kehoe & Kim J. Ruhl, 2009. "How important is the new goods margin in international trade?," Staff Report 324, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  10. David S. Jacks & Christopher M. Meissner & Dennis Novy, 2008. "Trade Costs, 1870-2000," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 529-34, May.
  11. Jonathan EATON, Samuel KORTUM, Francis KRAMARZ, 2008. "An Anatomy of International Trade : Evidence from French Firms” ~We examine the sales of French manufacturing ?rms in 113 destinations, including Franceitself. Several regularities stand out: (1) the ," Working Papers 2008-29, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
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