With Brexit looming, and protectionist pressures mounting elsewhere in the developed world, the question of whether trade policy matters is taking on more significance. This column looks at the extent to which trade policy was responsible for the shift towards intra-imperial trade in the interwar period. Both tariffs and quotas increased the Empire’s share of British trade, suggesting that trade policy mattered more for interwar trade patterns than the cliometric literature has suggested.
Alan de Bromhead, Alan Fernihough, Markus Lampe, Kevin O'Rourke, 24 March 2017
Adrian Wood, 18 March 2017
In defending trade from misguided protectionism, economists argue that the main killer of manufacturing employment around the world has been technology, not trade. This column explores how globalisation has caused the sectoral structures of countries to conform more closely to their factor endowments. In the skill-abundant developed regions, manufacturing became more skill-intensive, while in skill-scarce and land-scarce Asia, labour-intensive manufacturing expanded. In land-abundant developing Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, by contrast, manufacturing contracted.
Italo Colantone, Piero Stanig, 23 November 2016
The vote for Brexit was a watershed moment in European politics. This column investigates the causal drivers of differences in support for the Leave campaign across UK regions. Globalisation in the form of the ‘Chinese import shock’ is found to be a key driver of regional support for Brexit. The results suggest that policies are needed that help to redistribute the benefits of globalisation across society.
Wolfgang Keller, Javier Andres Santiago, Carol Shiue, 23 August 2016
In international trade theory, countries are often treated as homogenous regions, with no account taken of their internal geography. This column uses evidence from China’s Treaty Port Era to show how domestic trade frictions shape welfare gains from trade. Gains from new technologies that lower trade costs are shared, but the gains are not evenly distributed. Lower trade costs can also mean lower welfare for productivity leaders, who may be replaced by low-cost suppliers from less productive regions as the costs of transport decline.
Stela Rubínová, Emmanuel Dhyne, 04 July 2016
Even in export-oriented industries, only a handful of firms ship their goods abroad. These firms are systematically different from their purely domestic counterparts. This column sheds light on the domestic supply chain of exporters to uncover firms whose production is exported indirectly. Accounting for indirect exporters brings the empirics of international trade closer to the modern structure of production, characterised by many stages in possibly many locations. These findings suggest that the distributional effects of globalisation go beyond the exporters versus non-exporters dichotomy.
Fabio Ghironi, 03 July 2016
Debate surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is raging. Economists on different sides of the debate have used different arguments and tools to support their positions. This column surveys several recent studies and the strategies they employ in modelling the potential effects of TPP. It argues that structural models need to start from micro foundations, and need to incorporate trade and macro dynamics. The general results of these studies lend support to those who think that TPP will be beneficial.
Francisco Buera, Ezra Oberfield, 12 June 2016
Free trade often comes hand in hand with economic growth. The opportunity for gain is relatively small, according to quantitative models that rely on standard static mechanisms. This column introduces a model to study the diffusion of ideas across countries as a means of increasing productivity, and a quantitative assessment of the role of trade in the transmission of knowledge. How much the transmission of knowledge will impact productivity depends on the openness of the trading countries, current stock of knowledge, and a diffusion parameter.
Friederike Niepmann, Tim Schmidt-Eisenlohr, 11 June 2016
To mitigate the risks of international trade for firms, banks offer trade finance products – specifically, letters of credit and documentary collections. This column exploits new data from the SWIFT Institute to establish key facts on the use of these instruments in world trade. Letters of credit (documentary collections) cover 12.5% (1.7%) of world trade, or $2.3 trillion ($310 billion).
Emanuel Ornelas, 14 May 2016
For over half a century, one pillar of the world trading system has been the principle of ‘special and differential treatment’ (SDT) for developing countries. This column explores how SDT has impacted trade policy around the world. Although this strategy aims to help developing countries, in design and practice it seems to be biased against them. While there is no support for SDT as a growth-promoting strategy, there is a clear need for further research that explicitly tackles the empirical challenges that it presents.
Wolfgang Dauth, Sebastian Findeisen, Jens Südekum, 21 February 2016
A common theme of recent trade theory models is that globalisation-related shocks induce worker sorting across industries, labour markets, and plants. However, there is little empirical evidence of shocks causing such endogenous mobility responses. This column explores how rising international trade exposure affected the job biographies and earnings profiles of German manufacturing workers since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Individuals are found to systematically adjust to globalisation, with a notable asymmetry in the individual labour market responses to positive and negative shocks. Critically, the push effects out of import-competing manufacturing industries are not mirrored by comparable pull effects into export-oriented branches.
Giovanni Federico, Antonio Tena-Junguito, 07 February 2016
Parallels are often drawn between the Great Recession of the past decade and the economic turmoil of the interwar period. In terms of global trade, these comparisons are based on obsolete and incomplete data. This column re-estimates world trade since the beginning of the 19th century using a new database. The effect of the Great Recession on trade growth is sizeable but fairly small compared with the joint effect of the two world wars and the Great Depression. However, the effects will become more and more comparable if the current trade stagnation continues.
Yin-Wong Cheung, Sven Steinkamp, Frank Westermann, 27 January 2016
Since the beginning of the Global Crisis, illicit capital flows out of China have been in decline. This column argues that a key factor behind this is the relative money supply between China and the US. China’s rapidly increasing money supply, combined with the Fed’s expansionary monetary policy, prompted investors to reallocate their portfolios between the two countries. Another contributing factor is China’s gradual process of capital account liberalisation. The Fed’s interest rate hike in December may see a resurgence in China’s capital flight.
Pierre-Louis Vézina, David von Below, 20 January 2016
The price of oil rose to unprecedented highs in the 2000s, and its recent plunge took many by surprise. Although there are many consequences of such price fluctuations on the world economy, they are notoriously difficult to pin down. This column examines the trade consequences of varying shipping costs caused by oil price fluctuations. High oil prices are found to increase the distance elasticity of trade, making trade less global. The recent drop in oil prices could thus be a boon for globalisation.
Italo Colantone, Rosario Crinò, Laura Ogliari, 04 December 2015
Influential studies have shown that trade liberalisation is associated with substantial adjustment costs for workers in import-competing jobs. This column uses UK data to shed light on one such cost that has not been considered to date – subjective well-being. Import competition is found to substantially raise mental distress, through worsened labour market conditions and increased stress on the job. These findings provide evidence of an important hidden cost of globalisation.
Angus Armstrong, Francesco Caselli, Jagjit Chadha, Wouter den Haan, 27 November 2015
Economists often disagree on China’s prospects. This column provides the results from a survey of top UK-based macroeconomists by the Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM). It turns out that three quarters of the experts believe that China’s annual growth rate will be less than 6% over the next ten years or so. But the panel is divided on whether the slowdown will have a significant impact on the UK economy.
Laura Alfaro, Pol Antràs, Davin Chor, Paola Conconi, 14 November 2015
Trade in intermediate inputs now accounts for as much as two-thirds of international trade. Firms must decide which segments of their production processes to own and which to outsource. Using global plant-level data, this column empirically examines firms’ organisational choices along value chains. Decisions to integrate or outsource upstream and downstream functions are found to depend on demand elasticity relative to the substitutability of inputs. These results provide strong evidence that integration decisions are driven by contractual frictions.
Gianmarco Ottaviano, Giovanni Peri, Greg Wright, 17 June 2015
International trade in services and immigration are among the fastest growing aspects of globalisation. Using UK data, this column explores the links between these phenomena. Immigrants promote exports of final services to their home countries, while also reducing imports for some intermediate services, and bringing productivity gains to the labour market. In designing immigration policies, it is important that the potential impact on exports and offshoring activities are carefully considered.
Juan Carluccio, Denis Fougère, Erwan Gautier, 14 April 2015
International trade has significant effects on domestic labour demand. It opens up new markets for export, but also creates opportunities for off-shoring. This column presents the results of a study on trade, wages and collective bargaining using data on French manufacturing firms. Both exporting and offshoring are found to have positive effects on wages, with collective bargaining agreements, particularly those at the firm-level, seeing greater wage gains for all types of worker.
Mario Mariniello, 09 November 2013
Since the adoption of the Anti-Monopoly law in 2007, the Chinese competition authorities have stepped up enforcement of mergers and anti-competitive practices. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has relied heavily on behavioural remedies in merger cases (as opposed to the more efficient structural remedies favoured by the European Commission). Furthermore, merger policy has been used to protect domestic industries from competition. In contrast, Chinese fines for cartels have shown no foreign bias, and if anything have been too low.
Hector Torres, 21 September 2013
'Special and differential treatment' was justified on the basis that developing countries lacked the fiscal resources to smooth the transition to free trade. However, despite improved fiscal circumstances, exceptions to WTO rules remain in place. Establishing an independent watchdog for the WTO could help it to address these issues.