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Ricardian Comparative Advantage with Intermediate Inputs

  • Alan V Deardorff

    (University of Michigan)

This paper examines the role of comparative advantage in a Ricardian trade model with intermediate inputs. The first issue is how to define comparative advantage when there are intermediate inputs. Several definitions are suggested, differing in whether they are based on the total costs of producing goods, on the one hand, or on the labor requirements per dollar of value added, on the other; and differing also – since both approaches require prices of intermediate inputs – in the choice of prices for making these comparisons. Standard “predictions” of trade patterns in terms of comparative advantage are easily derived, but using the value-added definition and actual prices that prevail with trade. These have the usual implications for patterns of specialization based on rankings, or “chains,” of comparative advantage. However, because these prices are not given and may depend on barriers to trade, these comparisons are less informative than in Ricardian models with only final goods. In fact, trade patterns here can be so sensitive to trade costs that any such comparison predicting the trade in particular goods fails to be robust. In spite of this, the gains from trade are unambiguous in these Ricardian models, with imported inputs actually providing an additional source of gain from trade. Also, a weaker statement of the Law of Comparative Advantage, using only a correlation or average relationship between relative autarky prices and trade, is also valid under weaker assumptions than in more general models.

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File URL: http://fordschool.umich.edu/rsie/workingpapers/Papers501-525/r501.pdf
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Paper provided by Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan in its series Working Papers with number 501.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mie:wpaper:501
Contact details of provider: Postal: ANN ARBOR MICHIGAN 48109
Web page: http://fordschool.umich.edu/rsie/

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  1. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2002. "Integration Versus Outsourcing In Industry Equilibrium," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(1), pages 85-120, February.
  2. Dixit, Avinash K & Grossman, Gene M, 1982. "Trade and Protection with Multistage Production," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 583-94, October.
  3. W. M. Corden, 1966. "The Structure of a Tariff System and the Effective Protective Rate," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74, pages 221.
  4. Ronald W. Jones, 2000. "Globalization and the Theory of Input Trade," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026210086x, June.
  5. 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.
  6. Jones, Ronald W. & Peter Neary, J., 1984. "The positive theory of international trade," Handbook of International Economics, in: R. W. Jones & P. B. Kenen (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 1-62 Elsevier.
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