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Imports and Exports at the Level of the Firm : Evidence from Belgium

  • Mirabelle Muûls


    (National Bank of Belgium, Microeconomic Information Department)

  • Mauro Pisu


    (National Bank of Belgium, Research Department)

This paper explores a newly-available panel data set merging balance sheet and international trade transaction data for Belgium. Both imports and exports appear to be highly concentrated among few firms and seem to have become more so over time. Focusing on manufacturing, we find that facts previously reported in the literature for exports only actually apply to imports too. We note that the number of trading firms diminishes as the number of export destinations or import origins increases. The same is true if we consider the number of products traded. With regard to productivity differentials, firms that both import and export appear to be the most productive, followed, in descending order, by importers only, exporters only and non-traders. These results point to the presence of fixed costs not only of exporting, but also of importing and to a process of self-selection in both export and import markets. Also, the productivity advantage of exporters reported in the literature may be overstated because imports were not considered.

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Paper provided by National Bank of Belgium in its series Working Paper Research with number 114.

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Length: 54 pages
Date of creation: May 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbb:reswpp:200705-03
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  8. Fernandes, Ana M., 2007. "Trade policy, trade volumes and plant-level productivity in Colombian manufacturing industries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 52-71, March.
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  16. Melitz, Marc J, 2002. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," CEPR Discussion Papers 3381, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  19. Markusen, James R, 1989. "Trade in Producer Services and in Other Specialized Intermediate Inputs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 85-95, March.
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  23. Aw, B. -Y. & Hwang, A. R., 1995. "Productivity and the export market: A firm-level analysis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 313-332, August.
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  25. Joze P. Damijan & Saso Polanec & Janez Prasnikar, 2004. "Self-selection, Export Market Heterogeneity and Productivity Improvements: Firm Level Evidence from Slovenia," LICOS Discussion Papers 14804, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
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