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International Technology Diffusion via Goods Trade: Theory and Evidence from China

by Beaulieu, Eugene and Wan, Shan

This paper develops a multi-product firm model of international trade with the endoge- nous decisions on export and import to study technology diffusion via goods trade. In our model, a firm’s productivity in a product is a combination of its general ability which applies to all the goods the firm produces and product expertise which applies only to a particular good. Within each firm, the decisions of export and import are based on product expertise. Technology diffuses via goods trade, therefore a firm can improve its productivity by reverse-engineering the imported advanced foreign prod- ucts. We use Chinese trade data to empirically analyze our theory. The results show that a firm will import the product in the category where it already has higher expertise, which is consistent with the theoretical prediction. We find that a firm’s productivity in a category gets improved when it imports in the same category, but only product expertise gets accumulated, not the firm ability.

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