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Quality Differentiation and Trade Intermediation

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  • Heiwai Tang
  • Yifan Zhang

Abstract

Existing studies show that intermediaries can help verify or screen product quality for buyers. This paper examines this claim both theoretically and empirically in the context of international trade. We develop a heterogeneous-firm model that features vertical and horizontal differentiations of products, a coexistence of direct exporting and indirect exporting through intermediaries, and firms' investment in quality signaling. When complete contracts are not available, intermediaries underinvest in quality signaling from the perspective of the producer. For products that are more horizontally differentiated, competition is less intense and even low-quality firms export via intermediaries. These two mechanisms yield a negative (positive) cross-product relation between vertical (horizontal) differentiation and the prevalence of trade intermediation. Intermediation is more prevalent in the more (both physically and culturally) distant destinations, more so for the more vertically and horizontally differentiated products. Using detailed product-level data from China, we find supporting evidence for these predications.

Suggested Citation

  • Heiwai Tang & Yifan Zhang, 2012. "Quality Differentiation and Trade Intermediation," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0771, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  • Handle: RePEc:tuf:tuftec:0771
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    File URL: http://ase.tufts.edu/econ/research/documents/2012/tangQualityIntermediary.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Heiwai Tang & Yifan Zhang, 2012. "Exchange Rates and the Margins of Trade: Evidence from Chinese Exporters," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 58(4), pages 671-702, December.
    2. Haichao Fan & Yao Amber Li & Stephen R. Yeaple, 2015. "Trade Liberalization, Quality, and Export Prices," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1033-1051, December.
    3. Ma, Yue & Tang, Heiwai & Zhang, Yifan, 2014. "Factor Intensity, product switching, and productivity: Evidence from Chinese exporters," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(2), pages 349-362.
    4. Gabor Bekes & Balázs Murakozy, 2015. "The ladder of foreign sales: Internationalization modes of European firms," IEHAS Discussion Papers 1527, Institute of Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
    5. Jennifer Abel-Koch, 2013. "Who Uses Intermediaries in International Trade? Evidence from Firm-level Survey Data," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(8), pages 1041-1064, August.
    6. Araujo, Luis & Mion, Giordano & Ornelas, Emanuel, 2016. "Institutions and export dynamics," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 2-20.
    7. Ryan Monarch, 2014. ""It's Not You, It's Me": Breakup In U.S.-China Trade Relationships," Working Papers 14-08, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    8. Rollo, Valentina, 2012. "Determinants of Tanzanian export prices," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6225, The World Bank.
    9. Liu, Xuepeng & Shi, Huimin & Ferrantino, Michael, 2016. "Tax evasion through trade intermediation: Evidence from Chinese exporters," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 518-535.
    10. Jackie M.L. Chan, 2015. "Trade Intermediation, Financial Frictions, and the Gains from Trade," Discussion Papers 15-009, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    11. Ronald Davies & Tine Jeppesen, 2015. "Export mode, firm heterogeneity, and source country characteristics," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 151(2), pages 169-195, May.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Trade intermediation; vertical differentiation; product differentiation;

    JEL classification:

    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality

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