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Heterogeneous Quality Firms and Trade Costs

  • Matthias Helble

    (Department of Ethics, Equity, Trade and Human Rights, World Health Organization)

  • Toshihiro Okubo

    (Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration (RIEB), Kobe University, Japan)

There is increasing empirical evidence that vertical product differentiation is an important determinant of international trade. However, the economic literature so far has solely focused on the case in which quality trade stems from differences between countries. No studies investigate the role of quality trade between similar economies. This paper first develops a simple theoretical trade model that includes vertical product differentiation in a heterogeneous-firm framework. The model yields three main predictions for trade between similar economies. First, exported goods are of higher quality than goods sold on the domestic market. Second, larger economies have on average higher export qualities compared with smaller economies. Third, with increasing trade costs higher quality goods are exchanged. For all three effects, strong empirical support is found using detailed export trade data of the United States and 15 European Union countries.

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File URL: http://www.rieb.kobe-u.ac.jp/academic/ra/dp/English/dp220.pdf
File Function: First version, 2008
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Paper provided by Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration, Kobe University in its series Discussion Paper Series with number 220.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kob:dpaper:220
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  1. Matthias Helble, 2007. "Border Effect Estimates for France and Germany Combining International Trade and Intranational Transport Flows," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer, vol. 143(3), pages 433-463, October.
  2. Peter K. Schott, 2004. "Across-product Versus Within-product Specialization in International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 646-677, May.
  3. Toshihiro Okubo, 2009. "Firm heterogeneity and Ricardian comparative advantage within and across sectors," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 533-559, March.
  4. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & Chad Syverson, 2005. "Reallocation, Firm Turnover, and Efficiency: Selection on Productivity or Profitability?," Working Papers 05-11, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  5. Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Melitz, Marc, 2008. "Market Size, Trade, and Productivity," Scholarly Articles 3229096, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Krugman, Paul R., 1979. "Increasing returns, monopolistic competition, and international trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 469-479, November.
  7. Elhanan Helpman & Marc Melitz & Yona Rubinstein, 2006. "Trading Partners and Trading Volumes," DEGIT Conference Papers c011_022, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
  8. Richard Baldwin, 2005. "Heterogeneous Firms and Trade: Testable and Untestable Properties of the Melitz Model," NBER Working Papers 11471, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Kevin M.Shleifer Murphy & Andrei, 1991. "Quality and Trade," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 66, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  10. David Hummels & Alexandre Skiba, 2004. "Shipping the Good Apples Out? An Empirical Confirmation of the Alchian-Allen Conjecture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1384-1402, December.
  11. Baldwin, Richard & Harrigan, James, 2007. "Zeros, Quality and Space: Trade Theory and Trade Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 6368, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Andrew B. Bernard & Jonathan Eaton & J. Bradford Jensen & Samuel Kortum, 2003. "Plants and Productivity in International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1268-1290, September.
  13. Andrew B. Bernard & Stephen Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2004. "Comparative Advantage and Heterogeneous Firms," NBER Working Papers 10668, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Flam, Harry & Helpman, Elhanan, 1987. "Vertical Product Differentiation and North-South Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 810-22, December.
  15. Yeaple, Stephen & Helpman, Elhanan & Melitz, Marc, 2004. "Export versus FDI with Heterogeneous Firms," Scholarly Articles 3229098, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  16. Shaked, Avner & Sutton, John, 1987. "Product Differentiation and Industrial Structure," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(2), pages 131-46, December.
  17. Nancy L. Stokey, 1989. "The Volume and Composition of Trade Between Rich and Poor Countries," Discussion Papers 849, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  18. Hallak, Juan Carlos, 2006. "Product quality and the direction of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 238-265, January.
  19. Caves, Richard E. & Greene, David P., 1996. "Brands' quality levels, prices, and advertising outlays: empirical evidence on signals and information costs," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 29-52.
  20. Toshihiro Okubo, 2007. "Intra-industry Trade, Reconsidered: The Role of Technology Transfer and Foreign Direct Investment," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 30(12), pages 1855-1876, December.
  21. Krugman, Paul, 1980. "Scale Economies, Product Differentiation, and the Pattern of Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(5), pages 950-59, December.
  22. Falvey, Rodney E., 1981. "Commercial policy and intra-industry trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 495-511, November.
  23. David Hummels & Peter J. Klenow, 2005. "The Variety and Quality of a Nation's Exports," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 704-723, June.
  24. Krugman, Paul R, 1981. "Intraindustry Specialization and the Gains from Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 959-73, October.
  25. Schmalensee, Richard, 1978. "A Model of Advertising and Product Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 485-503, June.
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