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Imports and exports at the level of the firm: evidence from Belgium

  • Mirabelle Muuls
  • Mauro Pisu

This paper explores a newly-available panel data set merging balance sheet and international trade transaction data for Belgium. Both imports and exports appear to be highly concentrated among few firms and seem to have become more so over time. Focusing on manufacturing, we find that facts previously reported in the literature for exports only actually apply to imports too. We note that the number of trading firms diminishes as the number of export destinations or import origins increases. The same is true if we consider the number of products traded. With regard to productivity differentials, firms that both import and export appear to be the most productive, followed, in descending order, by importers only, exporters only and non-traders. These results point to the presence of fixed costs; not only of exporting, but also of importing and to a process of self-selection in both export and import markets. Also, the productivity advantage of exporters reported in the literature may be overstated because imports were not considered.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/19711/
File Function: Open access version.
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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 19711.

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Length: 57 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:19711
Contact details of provider: Postal: LSE Library Portugal Street London, WC2A 2HD, U.K.
Phone: +44 (020) 7405 7686
Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/

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  1. David Hummels & Jun Ishii & Kei-Mu Yi, 1999. "The nature and growth of vertical specialization in world trade," Staff Reports 72, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  2. Davide Castellani, 2002. "Export behavior and productivity growth: Evidence from Italian manufacturing firms," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer, vol. 138(4), pages 605-628, December.
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  4. Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2004. "Trade, Technology, and Productivity: A Study of Brazilian Manufacturers, 1986-1998," CESifo Working Paper Series 1148, CESifo Group Munich.
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  7. John R. Baldwin & Wulong Gu, 2004. "Trade Liberalization: Export-market Participation, Productivity Growth, and Innovation," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(3), pages 372-392, Autumn.
  8. 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.
  9. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum & Francis Kramarz, 2004. "Dissecting trade: firms, industries, and export destinations," Staff Report 332, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  10. Markusen, James R, 1989. "Trade in Producer Services and in Other Specialized Intermediate Inputs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 85-95, March.
  11. Fernandes, Ana M., 2007. "Trade policy, trade volumes and plant-level productivity in Colombian manufacturing industries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 52-71, March.
  12. B. Robert & L. Dresse, 2005. "Industry in Belgium : past developments and challenges for the future," Economic Review, National Bank of Belgium, issue III, pages 7-44, September.
  13. J. Bradford Jensen & Andrew Bernard & Peter Schott, 2005. "Importers, Exporters, and Multinationals: A Portrait of Firms in the U.S. that Trade Goods," Working Papers 05-20, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  14. Van Biesebroeck, Johannes, 2005. "Exporting raises productivity in sub-Saharan African manufacturing firms," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 373-391, December.
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  16. Joze P. Damijan & Saso Polanec & Janez Prasnikar, 2004. "Self-selection, Export Market Heterogeneity and Productivity Improvements: Firm Level Evidence from Slovenia," LICOS Discussion Papers 14804, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
  17. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen, 1997. "Exceptional Exporter Performance: Cause, Effect, or Both?," NBER Working Papers 6272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Feenstra, Robert C & Markusen, James R & Zeile, William, 1992. "Accounting for Growth with New Inputs: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 415-21, May.
  19. Wagner, Joachim, 2001. "The causal effects of exports on firm size and labor productivity: First evidence from a matching approach," HWWA Discussion Papers 155, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWA).
  20. Schor, Adriana, 2004. "Heterogeneous productivity response to tariff reduction. Evidence from Brazilian manufacturing firms," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 373-396, December.
  21. Sofronis Clerides & Saul Lach & James Tybout, 1996. "Is "learning-by-exporting" important? Micro-dynamic evidence from Colombia, Mexico and Morocco," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 96-30, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  22. Sourafel Girma & Richard Kneller & Mauro Pisu, 2005. "Exports versus FDI: An Empirical Test," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer, vol. 141(2), pages 193-218, July.
  23. Aw, B. -Y. & Hwang, A. R., 1995. "Productivity and the export market: A firm-level analysis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 313-332, August.
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