IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Offshoring and the Role of Trade Agreements

  • Staiger, Robert W.
  • Antras, Pol

The rise of offshoring of intermediate inputs raises important questions for commercial policy. Do the distinguishing features of offshoring introduce novel reasons for trade policy intervention? Does offshoring create new problems of global policy cooperation whose solutions require international agreements with novel features? Can trade agreements that are designed to address problems that arise when trade predominantly takes the form of the exchange of final goods be expected to perform in a world where offshoring is prevalent? In this paper we provide answers to these questions, and thereby initiate the study of trade agreements in the presence of offshoring. We do so by deriving the Nash and internationally efficient trade policy choices of governments in an environment in which some trade flows involve the exchange of customized inputs, contracts governing these transactions are incomplete, and the matching between final-good producers and input suppliers may involve search frictions. By characterizing the differences between Nash and internationally efficient policies in this environment, and by comparing these differences to those that would arise in the absence of offshoring of customized inputs, we seek to understand the implications of offshoring for the role of trade agreements. Our findings indicate that the rise of offshoring is likely to complicate the task of trade agreements, because in the presence of offshoring, (i) the mechanism by which countries can shift the costs of intervention on to their trading partners is more complicated and extends to a wider set of policies than is the case when offshoring is not present, and (ii) because the underlying problem that a trade agreement must address in the presence of offshoring varies with the political preferences of member governments. As a consequence, the increasing prevalence of offshoring is likely to make it increasingly difficult for governments to rely on simple and general rules -- such as reciprocity and non-discrimination -- to help them solve their trade-related problems.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 3374525.

in new window

Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Nber Working Paper Series
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3374525
Contact details of provider: Postal: Littauer Center, Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: 617-495-2144
Fax: 617-495-7730
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Pol Antr�s, 2005. "Incomplete Contracts and the Product Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1054-1073, September.
  2. Ornelas, Emanuel, 2008. "Feasible multilateralism and the effects of regionalism," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 202-224, January.
  3. Rossi-Hansberg, Esteban & Antras, Pol, 2009. "Organizations and Trade," Scholarly Articles 3199064, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Elhanan Helpman, 2006. "Trade, FDI, and the Organization of Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 44(3), pages 589-630, September.
  5. Antras, Pol, 2003. "Firms, Contracts, and Trade Structure," Scholarly Articles 3196328, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Stephanie Rosenkranz & Patrick W. Schmitz, 2006. "Can Coasean bargaining justify Pigouvian taxation?," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse7_2006, University of Bonn, Germany.
  7. Gene M. Grossman & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2006. "Trading Tasks: A Simple Theory of Offshoring," NBER Working Papers 12721, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Mathias Dewatripont & Patrick Bolton, 2005. "Contract theory," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/9543, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  9. Ornelas, Emanuel & Turner, John L., 2008. "Trade liberalization, outsourcing, and the hold-up problem," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 225-241, January.
  10. Deardorff, A.V., 1998. "Fragmentation in Simple Trade Models," Papers 98-11, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
  11. McLaren, John, 1997. "Size, Sunk Costs, and Judge Bowker's Objection to Free Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 400-420, June.
  12. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 2006. "What Do Trade Negotiators Negotiate About? Empirical Evidence from the World Trade Organization," NBER Working Papers 12727, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. 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.
  14. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1999. "Domestic Policies, National Sovereignty and International Economic Institutions," NBER Working Papers 7293, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Hummels, David & Ishii, Jun & Yi, Kei-Mu, 2001. "The nature and growth of vertical specialization in world trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 75-96, June.
  16. James A. Brander & Barbara J. Spencer, 1984. "Export Subsidies and International Market Share Rivalry," NBER Working Papers 1464, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Feenstra, Robert C & Hanson, Gordon H, 1996. "Globalization, Outsourcing, and Wage Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 240-45, May.
  18. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1988. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Working papers 495, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  19. Nathan Nunn, 2005. "Relationship Specificity, Incomplete Contracts and the Pattern of Trade," International Trade 0512018, EconWPA.
  20. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1992. "Protection For Sale," NBER Working Papers 4149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Blanchard Emily J, 2007. "Foreign Direct Investment, Endogenous Tariffs, and Preferential Trade Agreements," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-52, November.
  22. Ornelas, Emanuel & Turner, John L., 2010. "Protection and International Sourcing," CEPR Discussion Papers 8070, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  23. Pol Antras & Luis Garicano & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2005. "Offshoring in a Knowledge Economy," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2067, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  24. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1997. "An Economic Theory of GATT," NBER Working Papers 6049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Feenstra, R.C. & Hanson, G.H., 1995. "Foreign Investment, Outsourcing and Relative Wages," Department of Economics 95-14, California Davis - Department of Economics.
  26. Ananth Ramanarayanan, 2007. "International Trade Dynamics with Intermediate Inputs," 2007 Meeting Papers 722, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  27. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 2004. "The Economics of the World Trading System," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262524341, June.
  28. Ronald W. Jones, 2000. "Globalization and the Theory of Input Trade," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026210086x, June.
  29. Andrei A. Levchenko, 2004. "Institutional Quality and International Trade," IMF Working Papers 04/231, International Monetary Fund.
  30. Robert C. Feenstra, . "Integration Of Trade And Disintegration Of Production In The Global Economy," Department of Economics 98-06, California Davis - Department of Economics.
  31. Wilfred J. Ethier, 2004. "Political Externalities, Nondiscrimination, and a Multilateral World," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(3), pages 303-320, 08.
  32. Robert C. Feenstra & Gordon H. Hanson, 2005. "Ownership and Control in Outsourcing to China: Estimating the Property-Rights Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(2), pages 729-761, May.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3374525. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ben Steinberg)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.