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Country asymmetries, endogenous product choice and the speed of trade liberalization
Cabrales, Antonio; Motta, Massimo
Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Departament d'Economia i Empresa
In a world with two countries which differ in size, we study theimpact of (the speed of) trade liberalization on firms' profitsand total welfare of the countries involved. Firms correctlyanticipate the pace of trade liberalization and take it intoaccount when deciding on their product choices, which areendogenously determined at the beginning of the game. Competitionin the marketplace then occurs either on quantities or on prices.As long as the autarkic phase continues, local firms are nationalmonopolists. When trade liberalization occurs, firms compete in aninternational duopoly. We analyze trade effects by using twodifferent models of product differentiation. Across all thespecifications adopted (and independently of the price v. quantitycompetition hypothesis), total welfare always unambiguously riseswith the speed of trade liberalization: Possible losses by firmsare always outweighed by consumers' gains, which come under theform of lower prices, enlarged variety of higher average qualitiesavailable. The effect on profits depends on the type of industryanalyzed. Two results in particular seem to be worth of mention.With vertical product differentiation and fixed costs of qualityimprovements, the expected size of the market faced by the firmsdetermines the incentive to invest in quality. The longer the periodof autarky, the lower the possibility that the firm from the smallcountry would be producing the high quality and be the leader in theinternational market when it opens. On the contrary, when trade opensimmediately, national markets do not play any role and firms fromdifferent countries have the same opportunity to become the leader.Hence, immediate trade liberalization might be in the interest ofproducers in the small country. In general, the lower the size of thesmall country, the more likely its firm will gain from tradeliberalization. Losses from the small country firm can arise when itis relegated to low quality good production and the domestic marketsize is not very small. With horizontal product differentiation (thehomogeneous good case being a limit case of it when costs ofdifferentiation tend to infinity), investments in differentiationbenefit both firms in equal manner. Firms from the small country do notrun the risk of being relegated to a lower competitive position undertrade. As a result, they would never lose from it. Instead, firms fromthe large country may still incur losses from the opening of trade whenthe market expansion effect is low (i.e. when the country is very largerelative to the other).
15-09-2005
Microeconomics
trade liberalization
product differentiation
international trade
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