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Firms, Contracts, and Trade Structure

  • Antras, Pol

Roughly one-third of world trade is intrafirm trade. This paper starts by unveiling two systematic patterns in the volume of intrafirm trade. In a panel of industries, the share of intrafirm imports in total U. S. imports is significantly higher, the higher the capital intensity of the exporting industry. In a cross section of countries the share of intrafirm imports in total U. S. imports is significantly higher, the higher the capital-labor ratio of the exporting country. I then show that these patterns can be rationalized in a theoretical framework that combines a Grossman-Hart-Moore view of the firm with a Helpman-Krugman view of international trade. In particular, I develop an incomplete-contracting, property-rights model of the boundaries of the firm, which I then incorporate into a standard trade model with imperfect competition and product differentiation. The model pins down the boundaries of multinational firms as well as the international location of production, and it is shown to predict the patterns of intrafirm trade identified above. Econometric evidence reveals that the model is consistent with other qualitative and quantitative features of the data.

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File URL: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3196328/antras_firmscontracts.pdf
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Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 3196328.

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Date of creation: 2003
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Quarterly Journal of Economics
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3196328
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  1. Nöldeke, Georg & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1995. "Option contracts and renegotiation: A solution to the Hold-Up Problem," Munich Reprints in Economics 19329, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Cohen, Wesley M & Klepper, Steven, 1992. "The Anatomy of Industry R&D Intensity Distributions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 773-99, September.
  3. Aoki, Masahiko, 1990. "Toward an Economic Model of the Japanese Firm," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 28(1), pages 1-27, March.
  4. Brainard, S Lael, 1997. "An Empirical Assessment of the Proximity-Concentration Trade-off between Multinational Sales and Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 520-44, September.
  5. James R. Markusen, 1995. "The Boundaries of Multinational Enterprises and the Theory of International Trade," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 169-189, Spring.
  6. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output per Worker than Others?," NBER Working Papers 6564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Wilfred J. Ethier & James R. Markusen, 1991. "Multinational Firms, Technology Diffusion and Trade," NBER Working Papers 3825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Helpman, Elhanan, 1984. "A Simple Theory of International Trade with Multinational Corporations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 451-71, June.
  9. Donald B. Hausch & Yeon-Koo Che, 1999. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 125-147, March.
  10. Ethier, Wilfred J, 1986. "The Multinational Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(4), pages 805-33, November.
  11. Marin, Dalia & Verdier, Thierry, 2008. "Power inside the firm and the market: A general equilibrium approach," Munich Reprints in Economics 19255, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  12. McLaren, J., 1996. "'Globalization' and Vertical Structure," Discussion Papers 1996_21, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  13. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2002. "Outsourcing in a Global Economy?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1966, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  14. Jean Tirole, 1988. "The Theory of Industrial Organization," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262200716, June.
  15. Mathias Dewatripont & Philippe Aghion & Patrick Rey, 1990. "On renegotiation design," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/9577, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  16. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver, 1985. "The Cost and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," CEPR Discussion Papers 70, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  17. Grossman, G.M. & Helpman, E., 2001. "Integration vs. Outsourcing in Industry Equilibrium," Papers 2001-7, Tel Aviv.
  18. Markusen, James R., 1984. "Multinationals, multi-plant economies, and the gains from trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 205-226, May.
  19. James R. Markusen & Keith E. Maskus, 2001. "General-Equilibrium Approaches to the Multinational Firm: A Review of Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 8334, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1988. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Working papers 495, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  21. Aghion, Philippe & Dewatripont, Mathias & Rey, Patrick, 1994. "Renegotiation Design with Unverifiable Information," Scholarly Articles 12375014, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  22. John Romalis, 2004. "Factor Proportions and the Structure of Commodity Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 67-97, March.
  23. Kevin H. Zhang & James R. Markusen, 1997. "Vertical Multinationals and Host-Country Characteristics," NBER Working Papers 6203, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Hart, Oliver, 1995. "Firms, Contracts, and Financial Structure," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288817, March.
  25. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1994. "The Firm as an Incentive System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 972-91, September.
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