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A Simple Theory of Trade, Finance and Firm Dynamics


  • The authors thank participants at the EEA-ESEM 2012, at the AFSE, at the VfS, at the ETSG, at the ifo Lunchtime Seminar, at the EGIT Research Workshop and at the Göttinger Workshop “Internationale Wirtschaftsbeziehungen” for comments and remarks. In particular, they are obliged to Sebastian Benz, Christian Holzner, Ngo van Long, Volker Nitsch, Michael Pflüger, Jens Südekum and Timo Wollmershäuser.


A stylized monopolistic competition model of international trade is proposed where firms differ with respect to the expected economic lifetime of their innovations. Upon entry, they receive a commonly observed signal which is updated over time. Jointly with partial irreversibility of investment, this generates heterogeneity in effective discount rates and, thus, in the cost of finance. In line with evidence, the model predicts a negative correlation between firms' financing costs and their age. Over a firm's life cycle, per period net profits and the export participation probability grow. Exporters are less likely to exit than purely domestic firms. Belief updating entails excessive financing of incumbents relative to entrants and too much exporting. Asymptotically, trade liberalization reduces overall general equilibrium exit rates, but it does not necessarily increase welfare. With multiple asymmetric export markets, firms gradually expand their market coverage and total sales. A confidence crisis modeled by belief reversion causes an over-proportional decrease in exports, thereby offering a novel interpretation of the trade slump in 2008/09.

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