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Icebergs versus tariffs: A quantitative perspective on the gains from trade

  • Felbermayr, Gabriel
  • Jung, Benjamin
  • Larch, Mario

Recent quantitative trade models treat import tariffs as pure cost shifters so that their effects are similar to iceberg trade costs. We introduce revenue-generating import tariffs, which act as demand shifters, into the framework of Arkolakis, Costinot and Rodriguez-Clare (2012), and generalize their gains from trade equation. Our formula permits easy quantification based on countries' observed degrees of openness, tariff revenues, and on the gravity elasticities of tariffs and icebergs. Export selection drives a wedge between these two elasticities and matters for welfare gains. However, in all model variants, an analysis based on iceberg costs necessarily underestimates the true gains from trade relative to autarky. Our quantitative exercise suggests that the bias can be numerically significant. For countries with relatively high tariffs, our formula predicts 30-60% larger gains from trade when iceberg trade costs and/or tariffs are liberalized as compared to a pure reduction of iceberg trade costs.

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Paper provided by University of Tuebingen, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences in its series University of Tuebingen Working Papers in Economics and Finance with number 53.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:tuewef:53
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  1. Edmond, Chris & Midrigan, Virgiliu & Xu, Daniel Yi, 2013. "Competition, Markups, and the Gains from International Trade," Economics Series 299, Institute for Advanced Studies.
  2. Neary, James Peter, 1991. "Cost asymmetries in international subsidy games: Should governments help winners or losers?," Discussion Papers, Series II 147, University of Konstanz, Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 178 "Internationalization of the Economy".
  3. Felbermayr, Gabriel & Jung, Benjamin & Larch, Mario, 2013. "Optimal tariffs, retaliation, and the welfare loss from tariff wars in the Melitz model," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 13-25.
  4. Russell H. Hillberry & Edward J. Balistreri & Thomas F. Rutherford, 2007. "Structural Estimation and Solution of International Trade Models with Heterogeneous Firms," DEGIT Conference Papers c012_038, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
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  7. Costas Arkolakis & Arnaud Costinot & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, 2009. "New Trade Models, Same Old Gains?," NBER Working Papers 15628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Costinot, Arnaud & Rodriguez-Clare, Andres, 2013. "Trade Theory with Numbers: Quantifying the Consequences of Globalization," CEPR Discussion Papers 9398, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Philipp J.H. Schröder & Allan Sørensen, 2011. "A welfare ranking of multilateral reductions in real and tariff trade barriers when firms are heterogenous," Economics Working Papers 2011-18, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
  10. Balistreri, Edward J. & Markusen, James R., 2009. "Sub-national differentiation and the role of the firm in optimal international pricing," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 47-62, January.
  11. Chris Edmond & Virgiliu Midrigan & Daniel Yi Xu, 2011. "Competition , Markups, and the Gains from," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 1183, The University of Melbourne, revised 2014.
  12. Demidova, Svetlana & Rodríguez-Clare, Andrés, 2009. "Trade policy under firm-level heterogeneity in a small economy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 100-112, June.
  13. Matthieu Crozet & Pamina Koenig, 2010. "Structural gravity equations with intensive and extensive margins," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 43(1), pages 41-62, February.
  14. Alvarez, Fernando & Lucas, Robert Jr., 2007. "General equilibrium analysis of the Eaton-Kortum model of international trade," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(6), pages 1726-1768, September.
  15. Ralph Ossa, 2012. "Why Trade Matters After All," NBER Working Papers 18113, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Matthew T Cole, 2011. "Distorted Trade Barriers," Working Papers 201105, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
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