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Putting a Smiley Face on the Dragon: Wal-Mart as Catalyst to U.S.-China Trade

Retail chains and imports from developing countries have grown sharply over the past 25 years. Wal-Marts chain, which currently accounts for 10% of U.S. imports from China, grew 10-fold and its sales 90-fold over this period, while U.S. imports from China increased 30-fold. We relate these trends using a model in which scale economies in retail interact with scale economies in the import process. Combined, these scale economies amplify the effects of technological change and trade liberalization. Falling trade barriers increase imports not only through direct reduction of input costs but also through an expanded chain and higher investment in technology. This mechanism can explain why a surge in U.S. imports followed relatively modest tariff declines and why Wal-Mart abandoned its Buy American campaign in the 1990s. Also consistent with these facts, we show that tariff reductions have a greater effect the more advanced the retailers technology. The model has implications for the pace of the product cycle and sheds light on the recent apparent acceleration in foreign outsourcing.

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File URL: http://economics.missouri.edu/working-papers/2005/wp0506_basker_pham.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Missouri in its series Working Papers with number 0506.

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Length: 53 pgs.
Date of creation: 20 Jul 2005
Date of revision: 07 Oct 2005
Handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:0506
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Web page: http://economics.missouri.edu/

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  1. Emek Basker, 2005. "Job Creation or Destruction? Labor Market Effects of Wal-Mart Expansion," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 174-183, February.
  2. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & C.J. Krizan, 2002. "The Link Between Aggregate and Micro Productivity Growth: Evidence from Retail Trade," NBER Working Papers 9120, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David Hummels & Jun Ishii & Kei-Mu Yi, 1999. "The nature and growth of vertical specialization in world trade," Staff Reports 72, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  4. Robert C. Feenstra & Gordon H. Hanson, 2005. "Ownership and Control in Outsourcing to China: Estimating the Property-Rights Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(2), pages 729-761, May.
  5. Holmes, Thomas J, 2001. "Bar Codes Lead to Frequent Deliveries and Superstores," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(4), pages 708-25, Winter.
  6. Petya Koeva Brooks, 2000. "The Facts About Time: To-Build," IMF Working Papers 00/138, International Monetary Fund.
  7. Mauricio Mesquita Moreira, 2006. "Fear of China : is there a future for manufacturing in Latin America ?," INTAL Working Papers 1278, Inter-American Development Bank, INTAL.
  8. David Autor & Lawrence Katz & Alan Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," Working Papers 756, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  9. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Peter K. Schott, 2009. "Importers, Exporters and Multinationals: A Portrait of Firms in the U.S. that Trade Goods," NBER Chapters, in: Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data, pages 513-552 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2002. "Integration Versus Outsourcing In Industry Equilibrium," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(1), pages 85-120, February.
  11. Kei-Mu Yi, 2003. "Can Vertical Specialization Explain the Growth of World Trade?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(1), pages 52-102, February.
  12. Jerry Hausman & Ephraim Leibtag, 2004. "CPI Bias from Supercenters: Does the BLS Know that Wal-Mart Exists?," NBER Working Papers 10712, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Swenson, Deborah L., 2005. "Overseas assembly and country sourcing choices," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 107-130, May.
  14. Mark E. Doms & Ron S. Jarmin & Shawn D. Klimek, 2003. "IT investment and firm performance in U.S. retail trade," Working Paper Series 2003-19, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  15. Ethier, Wilfred, 1979. "Internationally decreasing costs and world trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 1-24, February.
  16. John Romalis, 2007. "Market Access, Openness and Growth," NBER Working Papers 13048, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Van Long, Ngo & Riezman, Raymond & Soubeyran, Antoine, 2005. "Fragmentation and services," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 137-152, March.
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