Vito Amendolagine, Andrea Presbitero, Roberta Rabellotti, Marco Sanfilippo, 24 January 2018

A new wave of foreign direct investment has swept sub-Saharan African countries, with inflows becoming more diversified both geographically and sectorally. This column presents an analysis that shows a high degree of complementarity between involvement in global value chains and FDI. Policies supporting the entry and upgrading of countries in such chains – especially via a strong institutional setting and a well-educated labour force – can help maximise the spillovers from foreign investment.

Koji Ito, Ivan Deseatnicov, Kyoji Fukao, 23 January 2018

The study of global value chains has become increasingly relevant as production becomes more and more fragmented across countries. This column uses evidence from Japan to evaluate recent theories that such chains have caused some of the country’s industries to become less competitive. The findings suggest that considering production for exports and domestic sales separately may provide a more complete picture of firm heterogeneity within industries, and a more complete picture of interconnected countries at the industry level.

Prateek Raj, 04 January 2018

In medieval Europe, trade depended on personal relationships, which were usually mediated by merchant guilds. The column argues that increasing incentives to do business with merchants outside the guild system, and the availability of better information about those trading partners, led to the decline of merchant guilds in the 16th century. This occurred first in coastal cities that were early adopters of printing technology.

Céline Carrère, Marcelo Olarreaga, Damian Raess, 15 December 2017

Protecting workers through the inclusion of labour clauses in trade agreements has become more common since the first such causes were included in NAFTA, but some argue that by increasing labour costs in developing countries, they represent a form of protectionism. This column uses new data to argue that there is no evidence for adverse effects on trade from labour clauses. When such clauses are strong, and if they emphasise cooperation in their implementation, they have a positive effect on the commercial interests of developing countries.

Filippo di Mauro, Vlad Demian, Jan-Paul van de Kerke, 08 December 2017

It is well-established in theoretical and empirical models that an exchange rate movement affects exports, but we are far from a consensus on the size and relevance of this effect. Macro-based analyses tend to yield very low values for the elasticity of exports to the exchange rate, while micro- or sectoral-based estimations tends to be higher. This column shows that one reason for the disagreement is that macro estimations fail to incorporate the characteristics of the underlying distribution of firm productivity and its asymmetries. Doing so generates higher elasticity estimates than the macro estimations, and greater country-level diversification.

Fabrice Defever, Alejandro Riaño, 01 December 2017

Received wisdom suggests that the majority of exporters in a country sell most of their output domestically. This column presents recent research that casts doubt on this assumption. The distribution of export intensity varies substantially and in most countries there are ‘twin peaks’, with some firms exporting a lot of their output, and others a little. This would be consistent with a standard model of international trade if the model were adjusted to recognise that firms differ in the demand they face in each market.

Benjamin Born, Gernot Müller, Moritz Schularick, Petr Sedláček, 28 November 2017

It is hard to calculate the current cost of Brexit, because there is no obvious counterfactual. This column calculates the cost by letting a matching algorithm determine which combination of comparison economies best resembles the pre-referendum growth path of the UK economy. The difference in output between the UK economy and its synthetic doppelganger adds up to a loss of 1.3% of GDP, or close to £300 million per week, since the vote took place. This implies a cumulative cost of more than £60 billion by the end of 2018.

Hylke Vandenbussche, William Connell, Wouter Simons, 27 November 2017

Global value networks make it difficult to evaluate the trade impact of Brexit. Using a new model of trade that accounts for the indirect effect of these networks, this column delivers fresh bad news for the UK, and for the rest of Europe. Brexit cuts GDP more, and costs more jobs, if we also consider global value chains. A hard Brexit would destroy four times as much GDP, and four times as many jobs throughout Europe, as a soft Brexit.

Catherine Mann, 23 October 2017

For the first time since the financial crisis, no country is showing contraction. However, Catherine Mann points out that there is a need for more investment, trade and globalisation in order to have sustained growth. This video was recorded at the "10 years after the crisis" conference held in London, on 22 September 2017.

, 06 September 2017

Will the UK remain in the EU's customs union? This video explains the implications of remaining in the customs union, and how it would affect trade. This video was recorded at the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex (UKTPO) in August 2017.

Hugo Erken, Philip Marey, Maartje Wijffelaars, 15 August 2017

Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has been an increasingly vocal proponent of protectionist measures. This column presents five reasons why he is unlikely to resort to full-blown protectionism: political motivations, WTO membership, the possibility of retaliation, the existence of global value chain integration and revenue streams, and the fact that automation rather than trade has caused most job losses in the US. If Trump does resort to protectionism, however, and other countries retaliate, US GDP could face cumulative losses of up to 4.5% over two years.

Gino Gancia, Giacomo Ponzetto, Jaume Ventura, 26 July 2017

The number of countries in the world more than halved during the first wave of globalisation, but then rose significantly during the second. Border changes have been much more peaceful during this second wave, and this column asserts that these observations are consistent with a theory in which political structure adapts to expanding trade opportunities. Globalisation makes borders costly. In its early stages, borders are removed by increasing country size, while in later stages, the cost of borders is removed by creating peaceful economic unions, leading to a reduction in country size.

Nikhil Datta, Swati Dhingra, 16 July 2017

The economies of Europe and the United States are inextricably linked and in an ideal world, a number of factors motivate a trade deal such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This column, taken from a recent VoxEU eBook, argues, however, that given the Brexit referendum in the UK and the election of Donald Trump as US president, as well as a number of other pre-existing complications, achieving such agreements will be highly contentious. 

Willem Thorbecke, Atsuyuki Kato, 01 July 2017

Since 2007, there have been large changes in the Swiss franc. This column shows that exchange-rate appreciations do not affect the exports, profits, or stock returns of Swiss companies making sophisticated products. In contrast, rises in the franc decrease the exports, profits and stock returns of firms producing medium-high-technology goods. An economy’s production structure is important for weathering exchange-rate fluctuations.

Sergey Nigai, 14 June 2017

How does trade affect different groups in different countries? In this video, Sergey Nigai discusses how different people respond to changes in trade policies and how this affects their income. This video was recorded at the Royal Economic Society Annual Conference held in Bristol in April 2017.

Kerem Cosar, Banu Demir, 13 June 2017

Container shipping is considered to be one of the drivers of globalisation. This column uses micro-level data to show evidence that confirms the role of 'the box' in the global economy: it implies significant cost savings and explains a significant amount of the global trade increase since its inception. The results also suggest that most of its trade-increasing effect has already been realised.

Caroline Freund, 07 June 2017

In assessing the underlying causes of the US’ significant trade deficits, the Trump administration’s focus appears to be on alleged unfair trade practices of foreign countries. This column argues that international trade policy has a negligible effect on trade balances. The aggregate US trade deficit results from macroeconomic pressures, while bilateral deficits are due to structural factors, supply chains, and how trade is measured. 

Christian Dippel, Robert Gold, Stephan Heblich, Rodrigo Pinto, 12 April 2017

Finding exogenous variables to establish control mechanisms is difficult outside of randomised control trials. This column shows that under certain circumstances, it is possible to separate out the causal effect of an unknown variable on the observed and unobserved variables. When applied to trade exposure and voter sentiment for populist parties, the model is largely accurate and gives the surprising finding that 170% of the total effect of trade exposure on populist voting is explained by labour markets, meaning that trade exposure’s other effects on voting – those that do not run through labour markets – are politically moderating.

, 07 April 2017

The UK started the process of leaving the EU on March 29 2017. Economists from the UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) based at the University of Sussex looked at the impact of trade deals on different sectors of the economy, and on different regions of the UK.