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The roles of import competition and export opportunities for technical change

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  • Steinwender, Claudia

Abstract

A variety of empirical and theoretical trade papers have suggested and documented a positive impact of trade on the productivity of firms. However, there is less consensus about the underlying mechanism at work. While trade papers focus on access to export markets, other papers stress the importance of import competition. Since imports and exports (and even tariffs affecting either) are usually highly correlated, it is unclear which mechanism the existing empirical papers uncover. This paper conducts a “horse race” between export opportunities and import competition. Using Spanish firm level data, instrumenting for exports and imports with tariff changes and controlling for selection, I find robust evidence that access to export markets leads to productivity increases, but only for firms that were already highly productive before. The evidence on import competition is weaker. If anything, initially low-tech firms manage to increase their productivity in response to increased competition from abroad. The latter finding is at odds with most trade models, so I propose a model incorporating non-profit maximizing managers to reconcile theory with the evidence. Empirically, I find that all productivity upgrades are driven by increased R&D, patenting, and product innovation. Access to export markets also leads to the adaptation of foreign technologies. There is no evidence that either mechanism leads to increased full time employment, instead full time workers seem to be replaced by part-time or temporary workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Steinwender, Claudia, 2015. "The roles of import competition and export opportunities for technical change," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 61154, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:61154
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/61154/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jesse Perla & Christopher Tonetti & Michael E. Waugh, 2021. "Equilibrium Technology Diffusion, Trade, and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 111(1), pages 73-128, January.
    2. Nina Pavcnik, 2002. "Trade Liberalization, Exit, and Productivity Improvements: Evidence from Chilean Plants," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(1), pages 245-276.
    3. Feenstra, Robert C., 2003. "A homothetic utility function for monopolistic competition models, without constant price elasticity," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 79-86, January.
    4. Alla Lileeva & Daniel Trefler, 2010. "Improved Access to Foreign Markets Raises Plant-level Productivity…For Some Plants," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(3), pages 1051-1099.
    5. Evgeny Zhelobodko & Sergey Kokovin & Mathieu Parenti & Jacques-François Thisse, 2011. "Monopolistic competition in general equilibrium: Beyond the CES," PSE Working Papers halshs-00566431, HAL.
    6. Berger, Helge & Nitsch, Volker, 2008. "Zooming out: The trade effect of the euro in historical perspective," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 27(8), pages 1244-1260, December.
    7. Philippe Aghion & Stefan Bechtold & Lea Cassar & Holger Herz, 2018. "The Causal Effects of Competition on Innovation: Experimental Evidence," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(2), pages 162-195.
    8. John P. Weche Gelübcke, 2013. "Foreign and Domestic Takeovers in Germany: Cherry-picking and Lemon-grabbing," Applied Economics Quarterly (formerly: Konjunkturpolitik), Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 59(4), pages 275-294.
    9. Behrens, Kristian & Murata, Yasusada, 2007. "General equilibrium models of monopolistic competition: A new approach," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 136(1), pages 776-787, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lisandra Flach & Michael Irlacher, 2015. "Product versus Process: Innovation Strategies of Multi-Product Firms," CESifo Working Paper Series 5405, CESifo.
    2. Jesse Perla & Christopher Tonetti & Michael E. Waugh, 2021. "Equilibrium Technology Diffusion, Trade, and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 111(1), pages 73-128, January.
    3. Lisandra Flach & Michael Irlacher, 2018. "Product versus Process: Innovation Strategies of Multiproduct Firms," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 236-277, February.
    4. Asturias, Jose, 2020. "Endogenous transportation costs," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 123(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    import competition; technical change; productivity; exporting;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance

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