Essays on International Trade and Industry Dynamics

Open Access
Diaz De Astarloa, Bernardo
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
August 02, 2017
Committee Members:
  • James R. Tybout, Dissertation Advisor
  • James R. Tybout, Committee Chair
  • Kala Krishna, Committee Member
  • Paul L E Grieco, Committee Member
  • Yizao Liu, Outside Member
  • International trade
  • Industrial organization
  • Firm heterogeneity
  • Industry dynamics
  • Development economics
This dissertation consists on three essays on international trade and industry dynamics. All three essays study empirical applications of open economy environments with heterogeneous firms who make decisions over time. The first essay studies trade policy and the dynamics of the solar photovoltaic manufacturing industry in the U.S. In it I develop a computable, continuous-time dynamic model of the industry where domestic firms engage in price competition against each other and an importing sector to sell solar panels to domestic consumers. Firms can attain cost reductions through learning by doing and R&D investments. I use the model to estimate its main parameters using firm-level survey data from the Department of Energy and then simulate the application of countervailing duties to imports of solar panels, analyzing the implications for the evolution of the industry and welfare. In a scenario where a 30% duty is applied to imports, domestic firms respond by increasing R&D expenditures, therefore increasing productivity and setting lower prices, even when concentration increases as high productivity domestic firms gain market share. The second essay is on the dynamics of the textiles and garments industry in Bangladesh. First, it shows that, in contrast to the standard description of entry into foreign markets, Bangladeshi exporters are fully committed to foreign markets, exporting most of their output abroad; they start big, not small, and show high survival rates once they start exporting. They are born to export firms who operate in orphan industries, with essentially missing domestic demand for their products. In addition to the usual fixed and sunk costs of exporting, they must face presumably higher costs of starting up new businesses. Then it compares these patterns with those of China, Colombia and Taiwan, and find similar but less-striking patterns for China. These features seem to be missing in Taiwan and Colombia, which accord with other typical cases described in the literature. Finally, it adapts a search and learning model of export dynamics to show how the presence of high sunk costs of establishing a new business and the absence of a domestic market can generate export trajectories similar to the ones we observe in Bangladesh. The third essay focuses on the links between productivity and exporting. The trade literature has identified three relationships. First, that productivity causes exporting, so that there is selection into exporting by more productive firms. Second, that exporting generates productivity growth through, for example, learning-by-exporting. Third, that firms make choices that make them more productive in preparation to export. The essay shows that patterns of Chinese exporters are consistent with all three hypotheses. Exporters are more productive than non-exporters, which is consistent with selection. For successful exporters, most of the productivity growth during the period occurred after entering export markets, rather than before. For unsuccessful exporters, on the other hand, this pattern is reversed. Average annual productivity growth, however, is higher prior to entry for both groups. Finally, new exporters increase sales expenditures and earn higher revenue from new products than other firms before they start exporting. This is true when compared to both non-exporters and continuous exporters.