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Information Frictions in Trade


  • Treb Allen

    (Yale University)


It is costly to acquire information about markets in other places, especially in developing countries. In this paper, I examine the effect of such information frictions on trade. I embed a process where heterogeneous producers sequentially search across regions to determine where to sell their produce into a perfect competition Ricardian trade model. Information frictions explain the empirical failure of price arbitrage and provide new insight into how market conditions affect trade flows. Using a data set I assemble on regional agricultural trade in the Philippines, I show that observed trade flows and prices suggest the presence of substantial information frictions. I then structurally estimate the model to disentangle information frictions from transportation costs. I find that (1) estimated transportation costs are half as large as those implied by complete information models and more consistent with observed freight costs; and (2) the vast majority (93 percent) of the “gravity†relationship between trade flows and distance can be attributed to information frictions rather than transportation costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Treb Allen, 2012. "Information Frictions in Trade," 2012 Meeting Papers 125, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed012:125

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Brander, James & Krugman, Paul, 1983. "A 'reciprocal dumping' model of international trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3-4), pages 313-321, November.
    2. McFadden, Daniel, 1989. "A Method of Simulated Moments for Estimation of Discrete Response Models without Numerical Integration," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(5), pages 995-1026, September.
    3. Mas-Colell, Andreu & Whinston, Michael D. & Green, Jerry R., 1995. "Microeconomic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195102680, June.
    4. Hillberry, Russell & Hummels, David, 2008. "Trade responses to geographic frictions: A decomposition using micro-data," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 527-550, April.
    5. Costas Arkolakis & Arnaud Costinot & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 2012. "New Trade Models, Same Old Gains?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 94-130, February.
    6. Anderson, James E, 1979. "A Theoretical Foundation for the Gravity Equation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(1), pages 106-116, March.
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