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Trade and growth: Import led or export led? Evidence from Japan and Korea

Weinstein, David E.; Lawrence, Robert Z.

It is commonly argued that Japanese trade protection has enabled the nurturing and development internationally competitive firms. The results in our paper suggest that when it comes to TFP growth, this view of Japan is seriously erroneous. We find that lower tariffs and higher import. volumes would have been particularly beneficial for Japan during the period 1964 to 1973. Our results also lead us to question whether Japanese exports were a particularly important source of productivity growth. Our findings on Japan suggest that the salutary impact of imports stems more from their contribution to competition than to intermediate inputs. Instead, this paper suggests that Japan's performance was perhaps even more of a miracle than we thought, since it occurred despite the maintenance of protectionist barriers. Furthermore our results indicate a reason for why imports are important. Greater imports of competing products spur innovation. Our results suggest that competitive pressures and potentially learning from foreign rivals are important conduits for growth. These channels are even more important as industries converge with the market leader. This suggests that further liberalization by Japan and other East Asian countries may result in future dynamic gains. While our analysis has principally focused on Japan, we have also provided corroborating evidence suggesting that our conclusions apply more broadly. Imports into the US seem to be an important factor in promoting productivity growth. The evidence for Korea suggests similar impacts from imports and tariffs and no evidence that exports promoted productivity. Our results thus call the views of both the World Bank and the revisionists into question and provide support for those who advocate more liberal trade policies.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Center on Japanese Economy and Business
Center on Japanese Economy and Business, Graduate School of Business, Columbia University
Center on Japanese Economy and Business Working Papers, 165
Published Here
February 10, 2011