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The Role of Trade Costs in the Surge of Trade Imbalances

Author

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  • Ricardo Reyes-Heroles

    (Federal Reserve Board)

Abstract

This paper shows that the decline in trade costs that underlies the increase in observed global bilateral gross trade flows has notably contributed to the surge in the size of net trade imbalances over the past four decades. To show this, I propose a framework that embeds a quantitative multi-country general equilibrium model of international trade based on Ricardian comparative advantages into a dynamic framework in which trade imbalances arise endogenously. I identify and describe two mechanisms through which declines in trade costs lead to larger imbalances in the model. By exploiting the information in bilateral trade flows, among other data, I calibrate the model and provide a decomposition that shows that 69 percent of the increase in the size of world trade imbalances can be explained by the decline in trade costs across countries. In other words, lower trade costs have not only allowed for more trade across countries in a particular point in time, but also for more trade over time. Moreover, the effect of lower trade costs on trade imbalances is heterogeneous across countries. In particular, trade imbalances in countries like the United States and China have been significantly affected by the decline in trade costs. I also show that the welfare gains from lower trade costs can differ substantially from those that are obtained when changes in trade imbalances are not taken into account.

Suggested Citation

  • Ricardo Reyes-Heroles, 2017. "The Role of Trade Costs in the Surge of Trade Imbalances," 2017 Meeting Papers 212, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed017:212
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:anr:reveco:v:9:y:2017:p:21-58 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Petroulakis, Filippos, 2017. "Internal devaluation in currency unions: the role of trade costs and taxes," Working Paper Series 2049, European Central Bank.
    3. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum & Brent Neiman & John Romalis, 2016. "Trade and the Global Recession," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(11), pages 3401-3438, November.
    4. Eaton, Jonathan & Kortum, Samuel & Neiman, Brent, 2016. "Obstfeld and Rogoff׳s international macro puzzles: a quantitative assessment," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 5-23.
    5. Sposi, Michael J., 2017. "Demographics and the Evolution of Global Imbalances," Globalization and Monetary Policy Institute Working Paper 332, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
    6. Ravikumar, B. & Santacreu, Ana Maria & Sposi, Michael J., 2017. "Capital Accumulation and Dynamic Gains from Trade," Working Papers 2017-5, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    7. Brancaccio, Giulia & Kalouptsidi, Myrto & Papageorgiou, Theodore, 2017. "Geography, Search Frictions and Endogenous Trade Costs," CEPR Discussion Papers 12141, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Stephen J. Redding & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2017. "Quantitative Spatial Economics," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 9(1), pages 21-58, September.
    9. repec:pal:imfecr:v:65:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1057_s41308-017-0036-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Felipe Benguria & Felipe Saffie & Sergio Urzúa, 2018. "The Transmission of Commodity Price Super-Cycles," NBER Working Papers 24560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Oleg Itskhoki & Dmitry Mukhin, 2017. "Exchange Rate Disconnect in General Equilibrium," NBER Working Papers 23401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Robert C. Johnson, 2017. "Measuring Global Value Chains," NBER Working Papers 24027, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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