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Transport Costs in International Trade

Listed author(s):
  • Julia Spies

    ()

  • Joern Kleinert

This paper claims that distance alone is a poor proxy for international transport costs in gravity equations. We develop a theoretical framework with a manufacturing and a transport sector, where the level of manufacturing exports determines the demand for transport. Above a certain threshold, transport service suppliers find it profit-maximizing to invest into advanced transport technology, which lowers their marginal costs and as a consequence, transport prices. Transport costs therefore vary with the distance between the two locations, and with the endogenous decision to invest in a more efficient technology. We tackle the biases in traditional gravity estimates by using newly collected data on transport prices from UPS and by applying instrument variable estimation techniques. Our results reveal that distance affects trade beyond the transport cost channel. Transport prices, in turn, are influenced by the distance and by the exports between two countries. We find that trading partners with 10% more exports enjoy 0.7% lower transport prices.

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File URL: http://www-sre.wu.ac.at/ersa/ersaconfs/ersa11/e110830aFinal00625.pdf
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Paper provided by European Regional Science Association in its series ERSA conference papers with number ersa11p625.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa11p625
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  1. Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Melitz, Marc, 2008. "Market Size, Trade, and Productivity," Scholarly Articles 3229096, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Santos Silva, J.M.C & Tenreyro, Silvana, 2005. "The Log of Gravity," CEPR Discussion Papers 5311, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Hummels, David & Lugovskyy, Volodymyr & Skiba, Alexandre, 2009. "The trade reducing effects of market power in international shipping," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 84-97, May.
  4. Rudolph, Stephan, 2009. "The gravity equation with micro-founded trade costs," Dresden Discussion Paper Series in Economics 11/09, Technische Universität Dresden, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Economics.
  5. Inmaculada Martínez-Zarzoso & Gordon Wilmsmeier, 2010. "Freight Rates and the Margins of Intra-Latin American Maritime Trade," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 201, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.
  6. Paula Bustos, 2011. "Trade Liberalization, Exports, and Technology Upgrading: Evidence on the Impact of MERCOSUR on Argentinian Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(1), pages 304-340, February.
  7. Baier, Scott L. & Bergstrand, Jeffrey H., 2004. "Economic determinants of free trade agreements," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 29-63, October.
  8. Yeaple, Stephen Ross, 2005. "A simple model of firm heterogeneity, international trade, and wages," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 1-20, January.
  9. Peter Egger & Mario Larch & Kevin E. Staub & Rainer Winkelmann, 2011. "The Trade Effects of Endogenous Preferential Trade Agreements," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 113-143, August.
  10. Richard Pomfret & Patricia Sourdin, 2010. "Why do trade costs vary?," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 146(4), pages 709-730, December.
  11. David Hummels, 2007. "Transportation Costs and International Trade in the Second Era of Globalization," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 131-154, Summer.
  12. Wilmsmeier, Gordon & Hoffmann, Jan & Sanchez, Ricardo J., 2006. "The Impact of Port Characteristics on International Maritime Transport Costs," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 117-140, January.
  13. Rudolph, Stephan, 2010. "Estimating gravity equations with endogeneous trade costs," Dresden Discussion Paper Series in Economics 01/10, Technische Universität Dresden, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Economics.
  14. David H. Romer & Jeffrey A. Frankel, 1999. "Does Trade Cause Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 379-399, June.
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