International harmonization of product standards and firm heterogeneity in international trade
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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