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Comparative Advantage and Trade Performance: Policy Implications


  • Przemyslaw Kowalski



This paper builds on recent generalisations of theory and empirics of comparative advantage and establishes the relative importance of different sources of comparative advantage in explaining trade, with particular focus on policy and institutional factors. The broad policy and institutional areas posited as determinants of comparative advantage in this paper include: physical capital, human capital (distinguishing between secondary, tertiary education and average years of schooling), financial development, energy supply, business climate, labour market institutions as well as import tariff policy. The empirical investigation is performed for bilateral trade of 55 OECD and selected emerging market (SEM) economies and 44 manufacturing sectors covering the entirety of merchandise trade. Our results show that comparative advantage remains an important determinant of trade and that it has changed over time, including as a result of changing policies and institutions. The policy and institutional areas shown to be important determinants of comparative advantage include physical and human capital accumulation (especially secondary and tertiary education), financial development, the business climate, as well as a number of aspects of labour market institutions. The results suggest also that comparative advantage has been — and is likely to be in the future — relatively more important for North-South and South-South trade. Overall, the results underscore the importance of a comprehensive approach to designing economic development policies, which should seek consistency between trade and other policy objectives.

Suggested Citation

  • Przemyslaw Kowalski, 2011. "Comparative Advantage and Trade Performance: Policy Implications," OECD Trade Policy Papers 121, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:traaab:121-en

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    Cited by:

    1. Jagadambe, Subhash, 2016. "Analysis of export competitiveness of Indian agricultural products with ASEAN countries," Working Papers 356, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore.
    2. Reinhard Schumacher, 2013. "Deconstructing the Theory of Comparative Advantage," World Economic Review, World Economics Association, vol. 2013(2), pages 1-83, February.
    3. Rusali, Mirela, 2012. "Eu Accession Impacts On The Comparative Advantages In Agricultural Trade: Romania’S Case," Economics of Agriculture, Institute of Agricultural Economics, vol. 59(4).
    4. Åsa Johansson & Eduardo Olaberría, 2014. "Global Trade and Specialisation Patterns Over the Next 50 Years," OECD Economic Policy Papers 10, OECD Publishing.
    5. Åsa Johansson & Eduardo Olaberría, 2014. "Long-term Patterns of Trade and Specialisation," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1136, OECD Publishing.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F11 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Neoclassical Models of Trade
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • F17 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Forecasting and Simulation

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