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Transport Costs in International Trade

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  • Julia Spies

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  • Joern Kleinert

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Julia Spies & Joern Kleinert, 2011. "Transport Costs in International Trade," ERSA conference papers ersa11p625, European Regional Science Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa11p625
    as

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    File URL: http://www-sre.wu.ac.at/ersa/ersaconfs/ersa11/e110830aFinal00625.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    8. 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), pages 709-730.
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    13. David Hummels, 2007. "Transportation Costs and International Trade in the Second Era of Globalization," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, pages 131-154.
    14. 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.
    15. Paula Bustos, 2011. "Trade Liberalization, Exports, and Technology Upgrading: Evidence on the Impact of MERCOSUR on Argentinian Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 304-340.
    16. Hummels, David & Lugovskyy, Volodymyr & Skiba, Alexandre, 2009. "The trade reducing effects of market power in international shipping," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 84-97.
    17. 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, pages 113-143.
    18. Paula Bustos, 2011. "Trade Liberalization, Exports, and Technology Upgrading: Evidence on the Impact of MERCOSUR on Argentinian Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 304-340.
    19. 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), pages 709-730.
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