Global selling

Kevin Lewis

August 07, 2019

Foreign competition and the durability of US firm investments
Philippe Fromenteau, Jan Schymik & Jan Tscheke
RAND Journal of Economics, forthcoming

How does the exposure to product market competition affect the investment horizon of firms? We study if firms have an incentive to shift investments toward more short‐term assets when exposed to tougher competition. Based on a stylized firm investment model, we derive a within‐firm estimator using variation across investments with different durabilities. Exploiting the Chinese World Trade Organization (WTO) accession, we estimate the effects of product market competition on the composition of US firm investments. Firms that experienced tougher competition shifted their expenditures toward investments with a shorter durability. This effect is larger for firms with lower total factor productivity.

WTO membership and corruption
Sanchari Choudhury
European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

Despite widespread belief that accession process and formal membership to the World Trade Organization (WTO) improve the quality of governance within a country, there is no convincing empirical evidence to substantiate this thought. Here, I investigate whether the WTO status of a country has a causal effect on firm-level reports of political corruption using a nonparametric partial identification approach to bound the average treatment effects (ATEs). I also analyze conditional ATEs to explore various sources of potential heterogeneity. Contrary to popular belief, I find that WTO membership is likely to have no causal effect on domestic corruption overall. And if anything, it is likely to increase corrupt practices, particularly among firms that are established post WTO membership and those that are government owned.

The US trade dispute: Blunt offense or rational strategy?
Michael Hübler & Axel Herdecke
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming

This article evaluates the recent protectionist US trade policy and the retaliation of the EU and China. The article employs a New Quantitative Trade Theory model and an Armington model for comparison. The simulation results show that US car tariffs are a credible threat to the EU, but the steel and aluminum tariffs are not. China suffers considerably from the US tariffs, especially the latest extended, tightened tariffs. The retaliation measures of the EU and China, however, do not cause significant US welfare losses compared to the situation without mutual trade policy.

Dining Out as Cultural Trade
Joel Waldfogel
NBER Working Paper, June 2019

Perceptions of Anglo-American dominance in movie and music trade motivate restrictions on cultural trade. Yet, the market for another cultural good, food at restaurants, is roughly ten times larger than the markets for music and film. Using TripAdvisor data on restaurant cuisines, along with Euromonitor data on overall and fast food expenditure, this paper calculates implicit trade patterns in global cuisines for 52 destination countries. We obtain three major results. First, the pattern of cuisine trade resembles the “gravity” patterns in physically traded products. Second, after accounting gravity factors, the most popular cuisines are Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and American. Third, excluding fast food, the largest net exporters of their cuisines are the Italians and the Japanese, while the largest net importers are the US – with a 2017 deficit of over $130 billion – followed by Brazil, China, and the UK. With fast food included, the US deficit shrinks to $55 billion but remains the largest net importer along with China and, to a lesser extent, the UK and Brazil. Cuisine trade patterns appear to run starkly counter to the audiovisual patterns that have motivated concern about Anglo-American cultural dominance.

Trade Policy and Market Power: Firm-Level Evidence
Alan Asprilla et al.
International Economic Review, forthcoming

This article identifies the effect of trade policy on market power through new data and a new identification strategy. We identify market power by observing how exporting firms price discriminate across markets following variations in bilateral exchange rates. Pricing‐to‐market is prevalent in all countries in our sample, even among small firms, although it is increasing in firm size. More importantly, we find that the effect of nontariff measures (NTMs) is not isomorphic to that of tariffs. Whereas tariffs reduce the market power of foreign firms through rent‐shifting effects, NTMs reinforce the market power of nonexiting firms, domestic and foreign alike.

The Origins of Persistent Current Account Imbalances in the Post-Bretton Woods Era
Mark Manger & Thomas Sattler
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Why do some countries run persistent current account surpluses? Why do others run deficits, often over decades, leading to enduring global imbalances? Such persistent imbalances are the root cause of many financial crises and a major source of international economic conflict. We propose that differences in wage-bargaining institutions explain a large share of imbalances through their effect on the trade balance. In countries with coordinated wage bargaining, wage growth in export industries can be restrained to ensure competitiveness, leading to persistent trade surpluses. We estimate the contribution of these institutions to trade balances in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries since 1977 and find ample support for our hypothesis. Contrary to much of the literature, the choice of fixed or floating exchange rate regimes has only a small effect on trade or current account balances. In other words, internal adjustment in surplus countries via wage-bargaining institutions trumps external adjustment by deficit countries.

Regional Effects of Exchange Rate Fluctuations
Christopher House, Christian Proebsting & Linda Tesar
NBER Working Paper, July 2019

We exploit differences across U.S. states in terms of their exposure to trade to study the effects of changes in the exchange rate on economic activity at the business cycle frequency. We find that a depreciation in the state-specific trade-weighted real exchange rate is associated with an increase in exports, a decline in unemployment and an increase in hours worked. The effect is particularly strong in periods of economic slack. We develop a multi-region model with inter-state trade and labor flows and calibrate it to match the state-level orientation of exports and the extent of labor migration and trade between states. The model replicates the relationship between exchange rates and unemployment. Counterfactuals show that the high degree of interstate trade plays a dominant role in transmitting shocks across states in the first year, whereas interstate migration shapes cross-sectional patterns in following years. The model suggests that a 25% Chinese import tariff on U.S. goods would be felt throughout the United States, even in states with small direct linkages to China, raising unemployment rates by 0.2 to 0.7 percentage points in the short run.

David and Goliath? Small Developing Countries, Large Emerging Markets, and South-South Preferential Trade Agreements
Daniela Donno & Nita Rudra
International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Has the rise of large emerging economies influenced the foreign economic policies of smaller nations? Many of the BRICS' (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) dominance in export markets for low-skilled goods pose a particular challenge for “surplus-labor” countries characterized by large populations of unskilled and underemployed labor. We theorize the incentives of firms and governments in surplus-labor countries to form South-South preferential trade agreements (SSPTAs) as a means of diversifying and expanding trade relationships in the face of this challenge. Of all the BRICS, our findings show that China poses the greatest challenge; the countries forming the most South-South agreements are those whose exports have been most displaced by China. We verify this pattern using both systemic and country-specific measures of the China “shock.” Imports from China, in contrast, have no significant effect on SSPTA formation. Our account, which helps resolve the dual puzzle of declining trade with rich countries and the proliferation of SSPTAs in recent decades, underlines the implications of China's rise on the developing world.

The Power of Ranking: The Ease of Doing Business Indicator and Global Regulatory Behavior
Rush Doshi, Judith Kelley & Beth Simmons
International Organization, forthcoming

We argue that the World Bank has successfully marshaled the Ease of Doing Business (EDB) Index to amass considerable influence over business regulations worldwide. The Ease of Doing is a global performance indicator (GPI), and GPIs — especially those that rate and rank states against one another — are intended to package information to influence the views of an audience important to the target, such as foreign investors or voters, thus generating pressures that induce a change in the target's behavior. The World Bank has succeeded in shaping the global regulatory environment even though the bank has no explicit mandate over regulatory policy and despite questions about EDB accuracy and required policy tradeoffs. We show that the EDB has a dominating market share among business climate indicators. We then use media analyses and observational data to show that EDB has motivated state regulatory shifts. States respond to being publicly ranked and some restructure bureaucracies accordingly. Next we explore plausible influence channels for the EDB ranking and use an experiment involving US portfolio managers to build on existing economics research and examine whether the rankings influence investor sentiment within the experiment. Using a case study of India's multiyear interagency effort to rise in the EDB rankings, as well as its decision to create subnational EDB rankings, we bring the strands of the argument together by showing how politicians see the ranking as affecting domestic politics, altering investor sentiment, and engaging bureaucratic reputation. Overall, a wide variety of evidence converges to illustrate the pressures through which the World Bank has used state rankings to achieve its vision of regulatory reform.

Are the Contents of International Treaties Copied and Pasted? Evidence from Preferential Trade Agreements
Todd Allee & Manfred Elsig
International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Most accounts of international negotiations suggest that global agreements are individually crafted and distinct, while some emerging scholarship suggests a heavy reliance on models and templates. In this research, we present a comprehensive test of whether new international treaties are heavily copied and pasted from past ones. We specify several reasons to expect widespread copying and pasting, and argue that both the most and least powerful countries should be most likely to do so. Using text analysis to examine several hundred preferential trade agreements (PTAs), we reveal that most PTAs copy a sizable majority of their content word for word from an earlier agreement. At least one hundred PTAs take 80 percent or more of their contents directly from a single, existing treaty — with many copying and pasting 95 percent or more. These numbers climb even higher when we compare important substantive chapters of trade agreements, many of which are copied and pasted verbatim. Such copying and pasting is most prevalent among low-capacity governments that lean heavily on existing templates, and powerful states that desire to spread their preferred rules globally. This widespread replication of existing treaty language reshapes how we think about international cooperation, and it has important implications for literatures on institutional design, policy diffusion, state power, and legal fragmentation.

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