Sizing up Market Failures in Export Pioneering Activities

Shang-Jin Wei, Ziru Wei, Jianhuan Xu

NBER Working Paper No. 23893
Issued in October 2017
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, International Trade and Investment

We argue that existence of public good does not necessarily imply market failure, and illustrate this point in the context of international trade. An influential hypothesis states that export pioneers are too few relative to social optimum because the first exporter's action creates an informational public good for all subsequent exporters. The hypothesis has been invoked to justify certain types of government interventions. We note, however, that such market failure requires two inequalities to hold simultaneously: the discovery cost is neither too low nor too high. Neither has to hold in the data. We propose a structural estimation framework to evaluate the hypothesis, and estimate the parameters based on the customs data of Chinese electronics exports. Our key finding is that "missing pioneers" are a low-probability event for large countries, but can be a serious problem for small economies.

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Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23893

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