NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Robert C. Johnson

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Working Papers

December 2012The Great Trade Collapse
with Rudolfs Bems, Kei-Mu Yi: w18632
We survey recent literature on the causes of the collapse in international trade during the 2008-2009 global recession. We argue that the evidence points to the collapse in aggregate expenditure, concentrated on trade-intensive durable goods, as the main driver of the trade collapse. Inventory adjustment likely amplified the impact of these expenditure changes on trade. In addition, shocks to credit supply constrained export supply further exacerbating the decline in trade. Most evidence suggests that changes in trade policy did not play a large role. We conclude that one benefit of the trade collapse is that it has stimulated research in neglected areas at the intersection of trade and macroeconomics.
October 2012Value-Added Exchange Rates
with Rudolfs Bems: w18498
This paper updates the conceptual foundations for measuring real effective exchange rates (REERs) to allow for vertical specialization in trade. We derive a value-added REER describing how demand for the value added that a country produces changes as the price of its value added changes relative to competitors. We then compute this index for 42 countries from 1970-2009 using trade measured in value added terms and GDP deflators. There are substantial differences between value-added and conventional REERs. For example, China's value-added REER appreciated by 20 percentage points more than the conventional REER from 2000-2009. These differences are driven mainly by the theory-motivated shift in prices used to construct the value-added REER, not changes in bilateral weights.
July 2012Trade in Intermediate Inputs and Business Cycle Comovement
w18240
Does input trade synchronize business cycles across countries? I incorporate input trade into a dynamic multi-sector model with many countries, calibrate the model to match bilateral input-output data, and estimate trade-comovement regressions in simulated data. With correlated productivity shocks, the model yields high trade- comovement correlations for goods, but near-zero correlations for services and thus low aggregate correlations. With uncorrelated shocks, input trade generates more comovement in gross output than real value added. Goods comovement is higher when (a) the aggregate trade elasticity is low, (b) inputs are more substitutable than final goods, and (c) inputs are substitutable for primary factors.
June 2012Fragmentation and Trade in Value Added over Four Decades
with Guillermo Noguera: w18186
We combine data on trade, production, and input use to compute the value added content of trade for forty-two countries from 1970 to 2009. For the world, the ratio of value added to gross trade falls by ten to fifteen percentage points, with two-thirds of this decline in the last two decades. Across countries, declines range from zero to twenty-five percentage points, with large declines concentrated among countries undergoing structural transformation. Across bilateral trade partners, declines are larger for nearby partners and partners that adopt regional trade agreements. That is, both policy and non-policy trade costs shape production fragmentation.

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