William Connell, Emmanuel Dhyne, Hylke Vandenbussche, 30 January 2020

How do firms become exporters? Using transaction-level data from Belgium, this column examines the role of intermediary firms in the internationalisation process. It finds that a manufacturing firm that exports indirectly to a particular destination via a wholesaler is more likely to go on to become a direct exporter to that destination at a later point. This effect is driven by the spillover over of knowledge on foreign demand from the wholesaler to the manufacturer. The role of intermediaries is particularly important for destination markets that are further afield, where firms face greater uncertainty. 

Tadashi Ito, Ryohei Nakamura, Manabu Morita, 13 February 2018

For regional firms to survive, they need to find export markets using wholesalers as intermediaries. This column uses a dataset of export activity in Japan to show that this type of indirect export activity occurs predominantly from metropolitan areas, with the probability of direct exports negatively correlated with the distance between manufacturer and wholesaler. Wholesaler productivity (though not manufacturer productivity) was correlated with the probability of these indirect exports, suggesting that wholesalers search for suitable manufacturers, but not vice versa.

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