Banks in international trade finance: evidence from the U.S
Banks play a critical role in facilitating international trade, in particular by reducing the risk of trade transactions. This paper uses unique information on the trade finance business of U.S. banks to document new empirical patterns. The data reveal that banks' trade finance claims differ substantially across destination countries. They are hump-shaped in country credit risk and increase with the time to import of a destination market. The extent to which trading partners use bank guarantees also varies systematically with global conditions, expanding when aggregate risk is higher and funding is cheaper. The response of bank trade finance to changes in these macro factors is heterogeneous, however. In countries with intermediate levels of credit risk, which rely the most on bank guarantees, bank trade finance adjusts the least. We show that a modification of the standard model of payment contract choice in international trade is needed to rationalize these empirical findings.
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