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Trade theory and trade facts

  • Raphael Bergoeing
  • Timothy J. Kehoe

This paper quantitatively tests the “new trade theory” based on product differentiation, increasing returns, and imperfect competition. We employ a standard model, which allows both changes in the distribution of income among industrialized countries, emphasized by Helpman and Krugman (1985), and nonhomothetic preferences, emphasized by Markusen (1986), to effect trade directions and volumes. In addition, we generalize the model to allow changes in relative prices to have large effects. We test the model by calibrating it to 1990 data and then “backcasting” to 1961 to see what changes in crucial variables between 1961 and 1990 are predicted by the theory. The results show that, although the model is capable of explaining much of the increased concentration of trade among industrialized countries, it is not capable of explaining the enormous increase in the ratio of trade to income. Our analysis suggests that it is policy changes, rather than the elements emphasized in the new trade theory, that have been the most significant determinants of the increase in trade volume.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 284.

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Date of creation: 2001
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:284
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  1. Alan C. Stockman & Linda L. Tesar, 1991. "Tastes and technology in a two-country model of the business cycle: explaining international co-movements," Working Paper 9019, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  2. Hunter, Linda, 1991. "The contribution of nonhomothetic preferences to trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3-4), pages 345-358, May.
  3. Robert C. Feenstra, . "Integration Of Trade And Disintegration Of Production In The Global Economy," Department of Economics 98-06, California Davis - Department of Economics.
  4. Markusen, James R, 1986. "Explaining the Volume of Trade: An Eclectic Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1002-11, December.
  5. Dow, James & da Costa Werlang, Sergio Ribeiro, 1992. "Homothetic preferences," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 389-394.
  6. David Hummels & James Levinsohn, 1993. "Monopolistic Competition and International Trade: Reconsidering the Evidence," NBER Working Papers 4389, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Echevarria, Cristina, 1997. "Changes in Sectoral Composition Associated with Economic Growth," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 38(2), pages 431-52, May.
  8. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
  9. Helpman, Elhanan, 1987. "Imperfect competition and international trade: Evidence from fourteen industrial countries," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 62-81, March.
  10. Deardorff, Alan V., 1984. "Testing trade theories and predicting trade flows," Handbook of International Economics, in: R. W. Jones & P. B. Kenen (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 10, pages 467-517 Elsevier.
  11. Spence, Michael, 1976. "Product Selection, Fixed Costs, and Monopolistic Competition," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(2), pages 217-35, June.
  12. Krugman, Paul R., 1979. "Increasing returns, monopolistic competition, and international trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 469-479, November.
  13. Helpman, Elhanan, 1981. "International trade in the presence of product differentiation, economies of scale and monopolistic competition : A Chamberlin-Heckscher-Ohlin approach," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 305-340, August.
  14. Trefler, Daniel, 1993. "International Factor Price Differences: Leontief Was Right!," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 961-87, December.
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