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Firms, Contracts, and Trade Structure

  • Pol Antràs

Roughly one-third of world trade is intrafirm trade. This paper starts by unveiling two systematic patterns in the volume of intrafirm trade. In a panel of industries, the share of intrafirm imports in total U.S. imports is significantly higher, the higher the capital intensity of the exporting industry. In a cross-section of countries U.S. imports is significantly higher, the higher the capital-labor ratio of the exporting country. I then show that these patterns can be rationalized in a theoretical framework that combines a Grossman-Hart-Moore view of the firm with a Helpman-Krugman view of international trade. In particular an incomplete-contracting, property-rights model of the boundaries of the firm, which I then incorporate into a standard trade model with imperfect competition and product differentiation. The model pins down the boundaries of multinational firms as well as the international location of production, and it is shown to predict the patterns of intrafirm trade identified above. Econometric evidence reveals that the model is consistent with other qualitative and quantitative features of the data.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9740.

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Date of creation: Jun 2003
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Publication status: published as Pol Antràs, 2003. "Firms, Contracts, And Trade Structure," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1375-1418, November.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9740
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  1. Dalia Marin & Thierry Verdier, 2008. "Power inside the firm and the market: A general equilibrium approach," PSE - Labex "OSE-Ouvrir la Science Economique" halshs-00754258, HAL.
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  8. Mathias Dewatripont & Philippe Aghion & Patrick Rey, 1990. "On renegotiation design," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/9577, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  9. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output per Worker than Others?," NBER Working Papers 6564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. James R. Markusen & Keith E. Maskus, 2001. "General-Equilibrium Approaches to the Multinational Firm: A Review of Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 8334, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1994. "The Firm as an Incentive System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 972-91, September.
  12. Wilfred J. Ethier, 1986. "The Multinational Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(4), pages 805-833.
  13. Georg Noldeke & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1995. "Option Contracts and Renegotiation: A Solution to the Hold-Up Problem," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(2), pages 163-179, Summer.
  14. Pol Antràs, 2003. "Firms, Contracts, and Trade Structure," NBER Working Papers 9740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Oliver Hart & Sanford Grossman, 1985. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Working papers 372, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  16. Aghion, Philippe & Dewatripont, Mathias & Rey, Patrick, 1994. "Renegotiation Design with Unverifiable Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 257-82, March.
  17. John McLaren, 2000. ""Globalization" and Vertical Structure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1239-1254, December.
  18. repec:pri:wwseco:dp218 is not listed on IDEAS
  19. Markusen, James R., 1984. "Multinationals, multi-plant economies, and the gains from trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 205-226, May.
  20. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1988. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Working papers 495, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  21. Donald B. Hausch & Yeon-Koo Che, 1999. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 125-147, March.
  22. Ethier, W.J. & Markusen, J.R., 1993. "Multinational Firms, Technology Diffusion and Trade," ISER Discussion Paper 0303, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  23. Helpman, Elhanan, 1984. "A Simple Theory of International Trade with Multinational Corporations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 451-71, June.
  24. Brainard, S Lael, 1997. "An Empirical Assessment of the Proximity-Concentration Trade-off between Multinational Sales and Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 520-44, September.
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  26. John Romalis, 2004. "Factor Proportions and the Structure of Commodity Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 67-97, March.
  27. James R. Markusen, 1995. "The Boundaries of Multinational Enterprises and the Theory of International Trade," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 169-189, Spring.
  28. Hart, Oliver, 1995. "Firms, Contracts, and Financial Structure," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288817, December.
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