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Transport Costs in International Trade

  • 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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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
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Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa11p625
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  1. Peter Egger & Mario Larch & Kevin E. Staub & Rainer Winkelmann, 2010. "The Trade Effects of Endogenous Preferential Trade Agreements," CESifo Working Paper Series 3253, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Marc J. Melitz & Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano, 2005. "Market Size, Trade, and Productivity," NBER Working Papers 11393, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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 304-40, February.
  4. J. M. C. Santos Silva & Silvana Tenreyro, 2006. "The Log of Gravity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(4), pages 641-658, November.
  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. 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.
  7. Richard Pomfret & Patricia Sourdin, 2010. "Why do trade costs vary?," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer, vol. 146(4), pages 709-730, December.
  8. 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.
  9. David Hummels & Volodymyr Lugovskyy & Alexandre Skiba, 2007. "The Trade Reducing Effects of Market Power in International Shipping," NBER Working Papers 12914, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. David H. Romer & Jeffrey A. Frankel, 1999. "Does Trade Cause Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 379-399, June.
  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.
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