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Heterogeneous quality firms and trade costs

  • Helble, Matthias
  • Okubo, Toshihiro

There is increasing empirical evidence that vertical product differentiation is an important determinant of international trade. However, the economic literature so far has solely focused on the case in which quality trade stems from differences between countries. No studies investigate the role of quality trade between similar economies. This paper first develops a simple theoretical trade model that includes vertical product differentiation in a heterogeneous-firm framework. The model yields three main predictions for trade between similar economies. First, exported goods are of higher quality than goods sold on the domestic market. Second, larger economies have on average higher export qualities compared with smaller economies. Third, with increasing trade costs higher quality goods are exchanged. For all three effects, strong empirical support is found using detailed export trade data of the United States and 15 European Union countries.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4550.

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Date of creation: 01 Mar 2008
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4550
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  1. Matthias Helble, 2007. "Border Effect Estimates for France and Germany Combining International Trade and Intranational Transport Flows," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer, vol. 143(3), pages 433-463, October.
  2. Murphy, Kevin M. & Shleifer, Andrei, 1997. "Quality and trade," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 1-15, June.
  3. Andrew B. Bernard & Stephen Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2004. "Comparative advantage and heterogeneous firms," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3700, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  4. Falvey, Rodney E., 1981. "Commercial policy and intra-industry trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 495-511, November.
  5. Andrew B. Bernard & Jonathan Eaton & J. Bradford Jenson & Samuel Kortum, 2000. "Plants and Productivity in International Trade," NBER Working Papers 7688, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Krugman, Paul, 1980. "Scale Economies, Product Differentiation, and the Pattern of Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(5), pages 950-59, December.
  7. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & Chad Syverson, 2008. "Reallocation, Firm Turnover, and Efficiency: Selection on Productivity or Profitability?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 394-425, March.
  8. Baldwin, Richard & Harrigan, James, 2007. "Zeros, Quality and Space: Trade Theory and Trade Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 6368, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Melitz, Marc, 2008. "Market Size, Trade, and Productivity," Scholarly Articles 3229096, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  10. Caves, Richard E. & Greene, David P., 1996. "Brands' quality levels, prices, and advertising outlays: empirical evidence on signals and information costs," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 29-52.
  11. Toshihiro Okubo, 2007. "Intra-industry Trade, Reconsidered: The Role of Technology Transfer and Foreign Direct Investment," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 30(12), pages 1855-1876, December.
  12. Peter K. Schott, 2004. "Across-product Versus Within-product Specialization in International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 646-677, May.
  13. Stokey, Nancy L, 1991. "The Volume and Composition of Trade between Rich and Poor Countries," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(1), pages 63-80, January.
  14. Elhanan Helpman & Marc J. Melitz & Stephen R. Yeaple, 2004. "Export Versus FDI with Heterogeneous Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 300-316, March.
  15. Toshihiro Okubo, 2009. "Firm heterogeneity and Ricardian comparative advantage within and across sectors," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 533-559, March.
  16. David Hummels & Alexandre Skiba, 2004. "Shipping the Good Apples Out? An Empirical Confirmation of the Alchian-Allen Conjecture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1384-1402, December.
  17. Shaked, Avner & Sutton, John, 1987. "Product Differentiation and Industrial Structure," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(2), pages 131-46, December.
  18. Flam, Harry & Helpman, Elhanan, 1987. "Vertical Product Differentiation and North-South Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 810-22, December.
  19. Hallak, Juan Carlos, 2006. "Product quality and the direction of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 238-265, January.
  20. David Hummels & Peter J. Klenow, 2005. "The Variety and Quality of a Nation's Exports," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 704-723, June.
  21. Richard Baldwin, 2005. "Heterogeneous Firms and Trade: Testable and Untestable Properties of the Melitz Model," NBER Working Papers 11471, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Krugman, Paul R., 1979. "Increasing returns, monopolistic competition, and international trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 469-479, November.
  23. Schmalensee, Richard, 1978. "A Model of Advertising and Product Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 485-503, June.
  24. Krugman, Paul R, 1981. "Intraindustry Specialization and the Gains from Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 959-73, October.
  25. Elhanan Helpman & Marc Melitz & Yona Rubinstein, 2006. "Trading Partners and Trading Volumes," DEGIT Conference Papers c011_022, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
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