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The Role of Export Subsidies When Product Quality is Unknown

  • Kyle Bagwell
  • R. Staiger

We explore in this paper the role of export subsidies when goods arriving from foreign countries are initially of unknown quality to domestic consumers, who learn about their quality only through consumption. If, when confronted with such goods, consumers view price as a signal of quality, a role for export subsidies can arise. In particular, we show that absent export subsidies, entry of high quality firms may be blocked by their inability to sell at prices reflecting their true quality. Export subsidies enable high quality producers to begin exporting profitably even while unable to credibly convey their high quality to consumers in the "introductory" period. Thus, in breaking the entry barrier for high quality firms, export subsidies can raise average quality in the market and a welfare-improving role for export subsidies emerges. Moreover, even when high quality firms find it possible to signal their high quality to consumers through an introductory pricing strategy, a role for government policy can arise: the signal (low introductory price) represents a transfer of surplus from foreign producers to domestic consumers which, as we show below, can be avoided with an appropriate export tax/subsidy policy.

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Paper provided by Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science in its series Discussion Papers with number 758.

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Date of creation: May 1987
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Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:758
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  1. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Riordan, Michael H, 1984. "Advertising as a Signal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 427-50, June.
  2. Kreps, David M & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Sequential Equilibria," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 863-94, July.
  3. Nelson, Philip, 1974. "Advertising as Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 729-54, July/Aug..
  4. Itoh, Motoshige & Kiyono, Kazuharu, 1987. "Welfare-Enhancing Export Subsidies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(1), pages 115-37, February.
  5. Bagwell, Kyle, 1990. "Informational product differentiation as a barrier to entry," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 207-223, June.
  6. Feenstra, Robert C., 1986. "Trade policy with several goods and market linkages," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3-4), pages 249-267, May.
  7. Grossman, Gene M & Horn, Henrik, 1988. "Infant-Industry Protection Reconsidered: The Case of Informational Barriers to Entry," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 103(4), pages 767-87, November.
  8. Schmalensee, Richard., 1980. "Product differentiation advantages of pioneering brands," Working papers 1140-80., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  9. James A. Brander & Barbara J. Spencer, 1984. "Export Subsidies and International Market Share Rivalry," NBER Working Papers 1464, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Greenwald, Bruce C & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1986. "Externalities in Economies with Imperfect Information and Incomplete Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(2), pages 229-64, May.
  11. Kyle Bagwell & Michael Riordan, 1986. "Equilibrium Price Dynamics for an Experience Good," Discussion Papers 705, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  12. Bond, Eric W & Samuelson, Larry, 1986. "Tax Holidays as Signals," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 820-26, September.
  13. Brecher, Richard A. & Feenstra, Robert C., 1983. "International trade and capital mobility between diversified economies," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3-4), pages 321-339, May.
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