IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Wal-Mart as Catalyst to U.S.-China Trade



Retail chains and the volume of imports of consumer goods from developing countries have grown sharply over the past 25 years. Wal-Marts sales, which currently account for 15% of U.S. imports of consumer goods from China, grew 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, creating a two-way relationship between the chains size and its sourcing choice. Falling trade bar- riers increase imports not only through direct reduction of input costs but also through an expanded chain and higher investment in technology. Calculations based on our model suggest that the existence of the chain more than doubles the sensitivity of imports to tariff reductions. Technological innovations account for approximately 60% of Wal-Marts growth from 19842004 and reductions in input cost, due to tariff reductions and changes in sourcing, account for 40% of this growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Emek Basker & Pham Hoang Van, 2007. "Wal-Mart as Catalyst to U.S.-China Trade," Working Papers 0710, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  • Handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:0710

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Valerie R. Bencivenga & Bruce D. Smith, 1991. "Financial Intermediation and Endogenous Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 195-209.
    2. Beatrix Paal & Bruce D. Smith, 2013. "The sub-optimality of the Friedman rule and the optimum quantity of money," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(2), pages 911-948, November.
    3. Freeman, Scott, 1993. "Resolving Differences over the Optimal Quantity of Money," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 25(4), pages 801-811, November.
    4. Chari, V. V. & Christiano, Lawrence J. & Kehoe, Patrick J., 1996. "Optimality of the Friedman rule in economies with distorting taxes," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2-3), pages 203-223, April.
    5. Kimbrough, Kent P., 1986. "The optimum quantity of money rule in the theory of public finance," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 277-284, November.
    6. Correia, Isabel & Teles, Pedro, 1996. "Is the Friedman rule optimal when money is an intermediate good?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 223-244, October.
    7. Stacey Schreft & Bruce Smith, 2008. "The social value of risk-free government debt," Annals of Finance, Springer, vol. 4(2), pages 131-155, March.
    8. Joydeep Bhattacharya & Mark G. Guzman & Elisabeth Huybens & Bruce D. Smith, 1995. "Monetary, Fiscal, and Bank Regulatory Policy in a Simple Monetary Growth Model," Working Papers 9501, Centro de Investigacion Economica, ITAM.
    9. Schreft, Stacey L & Smith, Bruce D, 2002. "The Conduct of Monetary Policy with a Shrinking Stock of Government Debt," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 34(3), pages 848-882, August.
    10. Bruce D. Smith, 2002. "Monetary Policy, Banking Crises, and the Friedman Rule," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 128-134, May.
    11. Bruce D. Smith, 2003. "Taking intermediation seriously," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, pages 1319-1377.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Dimitra Petropoulou, 2007. "Information Costs, Networks and Intermediation in International Trade," Economics Series Working Papers 370, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    2. Emek Basker & Pham Hoang Van, 2010. "Imports "Я" Us: Retail Chains as Platforms for Developing-Country Imports," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 414-418, May.
    3. Angela Cheptea & Charlotte Emlinger & Karine Latouche, 2012. "Multinational Retailers and Home Country Exports," Post-Print hal-01208840, HAL.
    4. Basker, Emek, 2011. "The Causes and Consequences of Wal-Mart’s Growth," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 5, pages 110-134.
    5. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Stephen J. Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2010. "Wholesalers and Retailers in US Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 408-413, May.
    6. Horst Raff & Nicolas Schmitt, 2016. "Manufacturers and retailers in the global economy," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 49(2), pages 685-706, May.
    7. Carsten Eckel, 2009. "International Trade and Retailing," CESifo Working Paper Series 2597, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Stephen Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2010. "Wholesalers and Retailers in U.S. Trade (Long Version)," CEP Discussion Papers dp0968, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    9. Emek Basker & Shawn Klimek & Pham Hoang Van, 2008. "Supersize It: The Growth of Retail Chains and the Rise of the "Big Box" Retail Format," Working Papers 08-23r, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau, revised Sep 2011.
    10. Raff, Horst & Schmitt, Nicolas, 2009. "Buyer power in international markets," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 222-229, November.
    11. Raff, Horst & Schmitt, Nicolas, 2009. "Imports, pass-through, and the structure of retail markets," Kiel Working Papers 1556, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    12. Emek Basker, 2011. "Does Wal‐Mart Sell Inferior Goods?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 49(4), pages 973-981, October.
    13. Horst Raff & Nicolas Schmitt, 2012. "Imports and the structure of retail markets," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 45(4), pages 1431-1455, November.

    More about this item


    Wal-Mart; Trade; Economies of Scale; China; Technological Change; Retail Chain;

    JEL classification:

    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:0710. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Valerie Kulp). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.