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The Trade Reducing Effects of Market Power in International Shipping

  • David Hummels
  • Volodymyr Lugovskyy
  • Alexandre Skiba

Developing countries pay substantially higher transportation costs than developed nations, which leads to less trade and perhaps lower incomes. This paper investigates price discrimination in the shipping industry and the role it plays in determining transportation costs. In the presence of market power, shipping prices depend on the demand characteristics of goods being traded. We show theoretically and estimate empirically that shipping firms charge higher prices when transporting goods with higher product prices, lower import demand elasticities, and higher tariffs, and when facing fewer competitors on a trade route. These characteristics explain more variation in shipping prices than do conventional proxies such as distance, and significantly contribute to the higher shipping prices facing the developing world. Markups increase shipping prices by at least 83 percent for the mean shipment in Latin American imports. Our findings are also important for evaluating the impact of tariff liberalization. Shipping firms decrease prices by 1-2 percent for every 1 percent reduction in tariffs.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12914.

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Date of creation: Feb 2007
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Publication status: published as Hummels, David & Lugovskyy, Volodymyr & Skiba, Alexandre, 2009. "The trade reducing effects of market power in international shipping," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 84-97, May.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12914
Note: ITI
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  1. Francois, Joseph & Wooton, Ian, 2000. "Trade in International Transport Services: The Role of Competition," CEPR Discussion Papers 2377, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Carsten Fink & Aaditya Mattoo & Ileana Cristina Neagu, 2002. "Trade in International Maritime Services: How Much Does Policy Matter?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 16(1), pages 81-108, June.
  3. Hummels, David, 2001. "Time as a Trade Barrier," GTAP Working Papers 1152, Center for Global Trade Analysis, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University.
  4. Christian Broda & David Weinstein, 2004. "Globalization and the gains from variety," Staff Reports 180, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  5. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521804400 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Feenstra, Robert C, 1994. "New Product Varieties and the Measurement of International Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 157-77, March.
  7. Redding, Stephen J. & Venables, Anthony J, 2000. "Economic Geography and International Inequality," CEPR Discussion Papers 2568, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Clark, Ximena & Dollar, David & Micco, Alejandro, 2004. "Port efficiency, maritime transport costs, and bilateral trade," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 417-450, December.
  9. Alexandre Skiba, 2007. "Regional Economies of Scale in Transportation and Regional Welfare," WORKING PAPERS SERIES IN THEORETICAL AND APPLIED ECONOMICS 200705, University of Kansas, Department of Economics, revised Sep 2007.
  10. Bruce A. Blonigen & Wesley Wilson, 2006. "New Measures of Port Efficiency Using International Trade Data," NBER Working Papers 12052, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. David Hummels & Alexandre Skiba, 2002. "Shipping the Good Apples Out? An Empirical Confirmation of the Alchian-Allen Conjecture," NBER Working Papers 9023, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. David H. Romer & Jeffrey A. Frankel, 1999. "Does Trade Cause Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 379-399, June.
  13. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521011143 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Wilmsmeier, Gordon & Hoffmann, Jan & Sanchez, Ricardo J., 2006. "The Impact of Port Characteristics on International Maritime Transport Costs," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 117-140, January.
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