Economics - Research Publications

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    THE "NEW" ECONOMICS OF TRADE AGREEMENTS: FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION TO REGULATORY CONVERGENCE?
    Grossman, GM ; McCalman, P ; Staiger, RW (WILEY, 2021-01-01)
    What incentives do governments have to negotiate trade agreements that constrain their domestic regulatory policies? We study a model in which firms design products to appeal to local consumer tastes, but their fixed costs increase with the difference between versions of their product destined for different markets. In this setting, firms' profit‐maximizing choices of product attributes are globally optimal in the absence of consumption externalities, but national governments have unilateral incentives to invoke regulatory protectionism to induce firm delocation. An efficient trade agreement requires commitments not to engage in such opportunistic behavior. A rule requiring mutual recognition of standards can be used to achieve efficiency, but one that requires only national treatment falls short. When product attributes confer local consumption externalities, an efficient trade agreement must coordinate the fine details of countries' regulatory policies.
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    International trade, product lines and welfare: The roles of firm and consumer heterogeneity
    McCalman, P (Elsevier, 2020-09-01)
    A central prediction of international trade models is that increased integration leads to specialization. This mechanism has been used to gain insight into the location of industries across countries, the reallocation of output across firms as well as the variation of a firm's product range as countries liberalize. Nevertheless, the notion that international trade will lead firms to rationalize their product portfolios and concentrate on their “best” products doesn't always square with reality. In particular, firms in prominent industries have, on occasion, extended their offerings to include a lower quality version/option as international competition increases – expanding rather than contracting their product portfolio. This paper demonstrates that such behavior can be generated in a standard trade model if there is consumer heterogeneity within a country and firms leverage these differences to their advantage. In this setting, increased competition can be associated with either product line reductions or extensions. That is, both types of behavior can arise in equilibrium from ostensibly similar shocks. Since trade costs directly influence the intensity of competition, their variation has important implications for product line design and also the distribution of welfare gains. In particular, product line extensions due to trade liberalization have especially large welfare benefits for low income consumers.