State Control and the Effects of Foreign Relations on Bilateral Trade
University of Heidelberg Department of Economics Discussion Paper Series No. 576
55 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2014
Date Written: October 28, 2014
Do states use trade to reward and punish partners? WTO rules and the pressures of globalization restrict states’ capacity to manipulate trade policies, but we argue that governments can link political goals with economic outcomes using less direct avenues of influence over firm behavior. Where governments intervene in markets, politicization of trade is likely to occur. In this paper, we examine one important form of government control: state ownership of firms. Taking China and India as examples, we use bilateral trade data by firm ownership type, as well as measures of bilateral political relations based on diplomatic events and UN voting to estimate the effect of political relations on import and export flows. Our results support the hypothesis that imports controlled by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) exhibit stronger responsiveness to political relations than imports controlled by private enterprises. A more nuanced picture emerges for exports; while India’s exports through SOEs are more responsive to political tensions than its flows through private entities, the opposite is true for China. This research holds broader implications for how we should think about the relationship between political and economic relations going forward, especially as a number of countries with partially state-controlled economies gain strength in the global economy.
Keywords: International trade, Diplomatic tensions, State-owned enterprises, Firm ownership, Event data, UN voting, China, India
JEL Classification: D74, F13, P16, P26
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation