Chapter 3 Comparative Advantage and the Gains from Trade
Why do we trade?
The classical theory of trade is concerned with the following 3 questions
1. What are the gains from trade? In other words, if countries benefit from
international trade, where do the gains come from, and how are they divided among trading countries? 2. What is the structure/pattern of trade? In other words, (a) which goods/services are exported, and which are imported? (b) What are the fundamental laws that govern international allocation of resources and flow of trade? 3. What are the terms of trade? That is, at what prices are the exported and imported goods exchanged? Nations (or firms in different countries) trade with each other because they benefit from it. Free trade supporting theories: show that specialization of production and free flow of goods grow all trading partner’s economies.
Early Theories – 4 categories
1. Early Trade Theory: Mercantilists: Purpose underpin an us versus them view of Trade: other country’s gain is our country’s loss.
Until mid-18th century, belief that the purpose of international trade as to keep exports greater than imports and pile up GOLD, and when /if deficits were created they believed that imports had to be restricted. Mercantilists assumed trade to be a zero-sum game since it was assumed that fixed amounts of goods and of gold existed in the world and that trade merely determined their distribution among various nations. Maximize exports and minimize imports: no advantage in trade. Government intervenes to achieve surplus in exports: Supporters (King, exporters, domestic producers): Anti-Mercantilists (citizens --- domestic goods were expensive and of limited variety). Today neo-mercantilists = protectionists: some segments of society shielded in the short-term. Zero-sum Vs positive-sum game view of trade.
Core Propositions of Mercantilist Theory Wealth is an absolutely essential means to power, whether for security or for aggression; Power is essential or valuable as a means to the acquisition or retention of wealth; Wealth and power are each proper ultimate ends of national policy; and There is a long-run harmony between these ends.
Trade Theories (continued)
2. Classical Trade Theory: (a) Absolute Advantage (Adam Smith, 1776) and Comparative Advantage (David Ricardo, 1817). Purpose: explain national economy conditions-country advantages – that enable such exchange to take place. Absolute Advantage (Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations, 1776) Access to foreign markets helps create wealth If no nation imports, every company will be limited by the size of its home country market More importantly, the macro division of labor will be limited by the extent of the market Imports enable a country to obtain goods that it cannot make itself or can make only at very high costs Trade barriers decrease the size of the potential market, hampering the prospects of specialization, technological progress, mutually beneficial exchange, and, ultimately, wealth creation. Slide 3-5
Mercantilism weakens a country in the long-run and enriches only a few segments A country should specialize in and export products for which it as an Absolute Advantage; import others. A country has an Absolute Advantage when it is more productive than an other country in producing a particular product.
Comparative Advantage (David Ricardo: Principals of Political Economy, 1817) Country should specialize in the production of those goods in which it is relatively more productive ---- even if it has absolute advantage in all goods it produces. Absolute advantage is really a special case of comparative advantage.
3. Modern Trade Theory
(redefined free trade, Heckscher-
Ohlin, 1919 – Factor Proportions (Chapter 4&5) and International Product Life-Cycle (Ray Vernon; 1966) International Product Cycle (Vernon) Most products initially conceived and produced in the US in the 20th century US firms kept production close to the market (aids decisions; minimizes risk of new product innovations; demand not yet based on price; low production not an issue) Limited initial demand in other advanced countries– exports more attractive than production there initially
With demand increase in advanced countries, production there follows With demand expansion elsewhere, product becomes standardized; production moves to low production cost areas; production now imported to the US and to advanced countries. 4. New Trade Theories (post 1980s) In many industries, as output expands with specialization, the ability to realize economies of scale increases and unit costs decrease. Because of such scale economies, world demand supports only a few firms in such industries (e.g. commercial aircraft, autos) Countries that had an early entrant to such an industry have an advantage in such an industry; first mover advantage and barriers to entry (Airbus overcame through government subsidies) Global Strategic Rivalry: firms gain competitive advantage through: intellectual property, R&D. economies of scale and scope, experience [Porter, 1990]
Ricardian Model of Production and Trade
Named after David Ricardo (1772-1823) Assumptions: There are two countries producing two goods and using one input (labor) Markets are competitive: firms are price takers Static world: technology is constant and there are no learning effects Labor is perfectly mobile: it can easily move back and forth between industries
Ricardian Model: Absolute Productivity Advantage
Productivity – the amount of output obtained from a unit of input Labor productivity– (output)/(hours worked) If two loaves of bread can be produced in 1 hour, productivity = (2 loaves) / (1 hour) Similarly, suppose productivity in steel is given as (3 tons) / (1 hour). Absolute productivity advantage – held by a country that produces more of a certain good per hour worked than another.
Absolute Productivity Advantage
Note: Canada has absolute advantage in bread (B) US has absolute advantage in steel (S)
Opportunity Cost Calculation
The U.S. opportunity cost of steel is 2/3 loaf of bread: each unit of steel produced requires the U.S. economy to forfeit the production of 2/3 loaf of bread. Thus, the bread price of steel in the US is: US S
2 Loaves ⎛ Loaves ⎞ = = .6 ⎜ ⎟. 3 Tons ⎝ Ton ⎠
The US The cost of 1 unit of steel in terms of bread is 0.67 Slide 3-11
Opportunity Cost Calculation
By the same logic, the Canadian opportunity cost of steel is 3 loaves of bread. That is, the bread price of steel in Canada is: Can S
3 Loaves ⎛ Loaves ⎞ = = 3⎜ ⎟. 1 Ton ⎝ Ton ⎠
The US: The cost of 1 unit of steel in terms of bread is 0.67 Canada : The cost of 1 unit of steel in terms of bread is 3 Slide 3-12
Absolute Advantage and Trade (cont)
Trade between the US and Canada, in this example, will occur at a price between these limits:
⎛ Loaves ⎞ ⎛ Loaves ⎞ US = 3⎜ > = P .6 S . ⎟ ⎜ ⎟ ⎝ Ton ⎠ ⎝ Ton ⎠
That is, the trading price (PT) must be such that [Canada] 3.00 > PT > 0.67 [US] Note that the steel price of bread is just the inverse of the bread price of steel.
Comparative Productivity Advantage and Gains from Trade
Question: What happens to a country that does not have absolute productivity advantage in anything?
Answer: Even if a country does not have any goods with an absolute productivity advantage, it can benefit from trade.
The idea that nations benefit from trade has nothing to do with whether a country has an absolute advantage in producing a particular good.
FIGURE 3.1 The United States’ Production Possibilities Curve
Shows the tradeoffs a country faces when choosing its combination of bread and steel output B on the PPC is an efficient point of production: resources are utilized to obtain the maximum possible level of output
FIGURE 3.2 Opportunity Costs and the Slope of the PPC
What Determines the Slope of the PPC? (cont.)?
The Slope of the PPC is -0.67: the number of loaves of bread forgone divided by the quantity of steel obtained
Relative Prices Without trade, the U.S. would forgo 0.67 loaves of bread for an additional ton of steel. This is the opportunity cost of steel, or the relative price of steel
Why relative price? Because the price is not in monetary units but in units of the other good
Relative price of steel is the inverse of the price of bread: if 0.67 loaves of bread is the price of a ton of steel in the U.S., then = 3/2 =1.5 tons of steel is the price of one loaf of bread
Autarky versus Trade
Autarky: complete absence of trade; all nations can only consume the goods they produce at home
Trade allows countries to raise their consumption and
If the opportunity cost of steel in Canada is 3 loaves of bread per ton, and in the U.S. 0.67 loaves per ton, both countries can consume more by trading Price of steel would have to settle somewhere between the opportunity costs in Canada and the U.S.
3.0 (loaves/ton) >
> 0.67 (loaves/ton)
FIGURE 3.3 Production and Trade Before Specialization
Let the price of bread settle at 2 loaves per ton of steel. U.S. trading possibilities are illustrated by the price line or the trade line (TT) with a slope of -2
A = the combination of steel and bread available for trade Slide 3-19
FIGURE 3.4 Production to Maximize Income
By specializing in the production of steel and trading steel for bread, the U.S. receives gains from trade and can increase its consumption
C = the consumption bundle the U.S. obtains by producing at B, or by specializing in steel and trading for bread. Note: parallel lines imply identical prices. Slide 3-20
FIGURE 3.5 Canada’s Gains from Trade
Conversely, Canada, by specializing in the production of bread and trading for steel, can also increase its consumption
The Gains from Trade U.S. and Canada
In sum, suppose the relative price of steel is 2 loaves of bread
When the U.S. increases steel output by 1 ton, it gives up 0.67 loaves of bread output; however, it can now trade the steel for 2 loaves, leaving a net gain of 1.33 loaves (2 0.67 = 1.33) To meet U.S. demand for 2 more loaves of bread, Canada gives up 0.67 tons of steel output; however, it can now trade 2 loaves for 1 ton of steel, leaving a net gain of 0.33 tons (1 - 0.67 = 0.33) Slide 3-22
Domestic Prices and the Trade Price
How to make sure that the trade price settles within
> 0.67(loaves/ton) ?
If the trade price was 4 loaves of bread [closer to the US position], both countries would specialize in steel. However, the consequent bread shortage and steel glut would increase the price of bread and decrease the price of steel; once the price of bread fell to less than 3.0, Canadian producers would switch back to bread. If trade price is closer to 0.67 [closer to the Canadian], gains are larger for Canada; if it is closer to 3.0, gains are larger for the U.S.; however, both would gain from trade when the price falls in this range.
Absolute versus Comparative Productivity Advantage
Absolute productivity advantage: held by a country that produces more of a certain good per hour worked than another
Comparative productivity advantage (or comparative advantage): held by a country that has lower opportunity costs of producing a good than its trading partners do
Comparative advantage allows a country that lacks absolute advantage to sell its products abroad Slide 3-24
Comparative Advantage in Sum
Comparative advantage allows gains from trade to occur However, when a nation moves along its PPC toward a new mix of industries to exploit its comparative advantage, the transition period may hurt some Economic restructuring caused by trade opening produces higher living standards; however, in the short-term, restructuring is often costly
Gains from Trade
For the small economy, free trade welfaredominates any other policy. What have we ignored:
Large countries Market imperfections Adjustment costs
Gains from Trade for a Small Economy: Autarky versus Trade
Autarky – complete absence of trade; the feasible consumption set is equal to the production set. A small economy has no effect on world prices. Gains from Free Trade:
Trade at world prices permits a consumption set that lies strictly outside the autarky consumption set at all points except the specialization point. As long as consumers prefer to consume some positive amount of both goods, trade must raise aggregate welfare. Slide 3-27
Large Country Gains from Trade
Free trade cannot be worse than autarky for the large country.
As long as the autarky price and the post trade prices are different, the logic is as above.
However, some level of protection will generally be welfare superior to free trade.
Straightforward if trading partner is small. Trade war possible if trading partner is large. Slide 3-28
Market Imperfections and the Gains from Trade
There are a variety of ways in which real economies deviate from perfect competition
Product Market Imperfection: Monopoly, Oligopoly, Monopolistic Competition Factor Market Imperfection: Unions, Long-term contracts Externalities: Positive and Negative Increasing Returns to Scale Slide 3-29
Market Imperfections (continued)
Market imperfections may justify policy intervention
Trade policy is usually not the preferred intervention; but In theory, correctly applied trade policy might be welfare increasing.
We return to these issues later.
Adjustment Costs and the Gains from Trade
The argument we have made to this point considers only the long-run. People that must shift jobs will generally experience costs
Direct relocation costs Spells of unemployment and reduced wages
These costs must be considered
This will reduce the total gains; Redistribution must be made for a Pareto improvement.
Economic restructuring: changes in the economy that may require some industries to grow and others to shrink or disappear
In the Ricardian model, trade opening moved labor from bread to steel production: restructuring improved U.S. overall economic welfare but made its bread industry disappear
If trade results in net gain (in an increase of the consumption bundle), a country will be better off by trading; however, some sectors may still lose
Response to Adjustment Costs
Given that some lose due to economic restructuring, the government can seek to get winners from trade and restructuring to compensate the losers
Trade adjustment assistance (TAA) helps losers by providing extended unemployment benefits, worker retraining, and temporary tax on imports For example, the U.S. government created a special program for workers laid off because of NAFTA; in 1994, 17,000 workers qualified for the program
The Future of the Tensions
Two views about the tension between civic and social groups on the one hand, and governments in international institutions, on the other:
Pessimistic: the tension will roll back the international integration achieved over the past several decades Optimistic: the tension will lead to increasing participation by civic and social groups in decisionmaking in international institutions, which will produce better policies and allow more people enjoy the benefits of globalization Slide 3-34