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  • Author: Jie Bai, Jiahua Liu
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: It is well known that various forms of non-tariff trade barriers exist within a country. Empirically, it is difficult to measure these barriers as they can take many forms. We take advantage of a nationwide VAT rebate policy reform in China as a natural experiment to identify the existence of these intranational barriers due to local protectionism and study the impact on exports and exporting firms. As a result of shifting tax rebate burden, the reform leads to a greater incentive of the provincial governments to block the domestic flow of non-local goods to local export intermediaries. We develop an open-economy heterogenous firm model that incorporates multiple domestic regions and multiple exporting technologies, including the intermediary sector. Consistent with the model’s predictions, we find that rising local protectionism leads to a reduction in interprovincial trade, more “inward-looking” sourcing behavior of local intermediaries, and a reduction in manufacturing exports. Analysis using micro firm-level data further shows that private companies with greater baseline reliance on export intermediaries are more adversely affected.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Political Economy, Reform, Tariffs
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Jie Bai, Panle Barwick, Shengmao Cao, Shanjun Li
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Are quid pro quo (technology for market access) policies effective in facilitating knowledge spillover to developing countries? We study this question in the context of the Chinese automobile industry where foreign firms are required to set up joint ventures with domestic firms in return for market access. Using a unique dataset of detailed quality measures along multiple dimensions of vehicle performance, we document empirical patterns consistent with knowledge spillovers through both ownership affiliation and geographical proximity: joint ventures and Chinese domestic firms with ownership or location linkage tend to specialize in similar quality dimensions. The identification primarily relies on within-product variation across quality dimensions and the results are robust to a variety of specifications. The pattern is not driven by endogenous joint-venture network formation, overlapping customer base, or learning by doing considerations. Leveraging additional micro datasets on part suppliers and worker flow, we document that supplier network and labor mobility are important channels in mediating knowledge spillovers. However, these channels are not tied to ownership affiliations. Finally, we calibrate a simple learning model and conduct policy counterfactuals to examine the role of quid pro quo. Our findings show that ownership affiliation facilitates learning but quality improvement is primarily driven by the other mechanisms.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Science and Technology, Developing World
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Jie Bai, Ludovica Gazze, Yukun Wang
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Collective reputation implies an important externality. Among firms trading internationally, quality shocks about one firm’s products could affect the demand of other firms from the same origin country. We study this issue in the context of a large-scale scandal that affected the Chinese dairy industry in 2008. Leveraging rich firm-product level administrative data and official quality inspection reports, we find that the export revenue of contaminated firms dropped by 84% after the scandal, relative to the national industrial trend, and the spillover effect on non-contaminated firms is measured at 64% of the direct effect. Notably, firms deemed innocent by government inspections did not fare any better than noninspected firms. These findings highlight the importance of collective reputation in international trade and the challenges governments might face in signaling quality and restoring trust. Finally, we investigate potential mechanisms that could mediate the strength of the reputation spillover. We find that the spillover effects are smaller in destinations where people have better information about parties involved in the scandal. New firms are more vulnerable to the collective reputation damage than established firms. Supply chain structure matters especially in settings where firms are less vertically integrated and exhibit fragmented upstream-downstream relationships.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Markets, Business , Global Political Economy, Accountability
  • Political Geography: China, Asia