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Trade Wars, Technology and Productivity


  • Ching-mu Chen
  • Wan-Jung Cheng
  • Shin-Kun Peng
  • Raymond Riezman
  • Ping Wang


If international trade is strictly trade in intermediate goods, would the common presumption, that small, less developed economies (the South) lose from trade wars still be true? We address this question by constructing a dynamic general equilibrium model in which the North and the South trade technology-embodied intermediate goods. We show that the detrimental effects of the trade war are mitigated by the fact that producers in the South can adjust their choice of imported intermediate goods and their investment in domestic technologies. We establish sufficient conditions under which the steady-state trade equilibrium length of the production line and the range of domestic production in the South both expand in response to a tariff war. It thereby creates a novel channel of scale-scope trade-off: The South counters the losses from trade protection in the volume and value of trade (scale) with an upward movement along the value chain (scope). As a result, average productivity in the South and aggregate technology used by the South both turn out to be higher.

Suggested Citation

  • Ching-mu Chen & Wan-Jung Cheng & Shin-Kun Peng & Raymond Riezman & Ping Wang, 2019. "Trade Wars, Technology and Productivity," NBER Working Papers 26468, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26468
    Note: EFG ITI

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Keller, Wolfgang, 2000. "Do Trade Patterns and Technology Flows Affect Productivity Growth?," The World Bank Economic Review, World Bank, vol. 14(1), pages 17-47, January.
    2. Vanessa Alviarez & Javier Cravino & Natalia Ramondo, 2019. "Accounting for Cross-Country Productivity Differences: New Evidence from Multinational Firms," 2019 Meeting Papers 1188, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    3. Diamond, Peter A & Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production: I--Production Efficiency," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(1), pages 8-27, March.
    4. Ralph Ossa, 2014. "Trade Wars and Trade Talks with Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(12), pages 4104-4146, December.
    5. Joaquin Blaum & Claire Lelarge & Michael Peters, 2018. "The Gains from Input Trade with Heterogeneous Importers," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 77-127, October.
    6. Joaquin Blaum & Claire LeLarge & Michael Peters, 2015. "The Gains from Input Trade in Firm-Based Models of Importing," NBER Working Papers 21504, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Peng, Shin-Kun & Thisse, Jacques-Francois & Wang, Ping, 2006. "Economic integration and agglomeration in a middle product economy," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 131(1), pages 1-25, November.
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    2. Shuzhong Ma & Xueyao Guo & Hongsheng Zhang, 2021. "New driving force for China’s import growth: Assessing the role of cross‐border e‐commerce," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(12), pages 3674-3706, December.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D92 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Intertemporal Firm Choice, Investment, Capacity, and Financing
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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