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International harmonization of product standards and firm heterogeneity in international trade

  • Reyes, Jose-Daniel

As free trade areas have proliferated and statutory tariffs have been dramatically reduced in recent decades, non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to international trade have risen in importance. Destination-specific product standards are one of the major types of NTBs as they impose additional costs on exporters and increase the time required to bring a product to market. This paper examines the response of U.S. manufacturing firms to a reduction of this NTB by looking at the harmonization of European product standards to international norms in the electronics sector. Using a highly detailed dataset that links U.S. international trade transactions to U.S. firms and a new industry-level database of EU product standards, the author finds that harmonization increases U.S. exports to the EU and that this increase is due to more U.S. firms entering the EU market –the extensive margin of trade. New entrants to the EU region are drawn mainly from the most productive set of firms already exporting to developing markets before harmonization -the extensive margin of trade composition. These firms are characterized by being smaller and less productive than the firms that were already exporting to the EU before harmonization. Furthermore, harmonization decreases export sales at existing exporters -the intensive margin of trade. These findings are consistent with a model featuring the role of product standards heterogeneity across market destinations and productivity heterogeneity across firms. These results suggest that working toward a harmonization of product rules across markets could be a supportive policy to encourage small and medium size firms'ability to enter new export markets.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5677.

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Date of creation: 01 Jun 2011
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5677
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  1. Alberto Portugal‐Perez & José‐Daniel Reyes & John S. Wilson, 2010. "Beyond the Information Technology Agreement: Harmonisation of Standards and Trade in Electronics," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(12), pages 1870-1897, December.
  2. Justin R. Pierce & Peter K. Schott, 2009. "A Concordance Between Ten-Digit U.S. Harmonized System Codes and SIC/NAICS Product Classes and Industries," NBER Working Papers 15548, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Elhanan Helpman & Marc Melitz & Yona Rubinstein, 2008. "Estimating Trade Flows: Trading Partners and Trading Volumes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(2), pages 441-487, 05.
  4. Maggie Xiaoyang Chen & Aaditya Mattoo, 2008. "Regionalism in standards: good or bad for trade?," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 41(3), pages 838-863, August.
  5. Shepherd, Ben, 2007. "Product standards, harmonization, and trade : evidence from the extensive margin," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4390, The World Bank.
  6. Czubala, Witold & Shepherd, Ben & Wilson, John S., 2007. "Help or hindrance ? the impact of harmonized standards on african exports," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4400, The World Bank.
  7. Thomas Chaney, 2008. "Distorted Gravity: The Intensive and Extensive Margins of International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1707-21, September.
  8. Ron S Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2002. "The Longitudinal Business Database," Working Papers 02-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
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