“Export Dynamics: Evidence from the Global Mobile Phone Industry” (Job Market Paper)
Abstract: This paper studies firms' export dynamics using evidence from the global cellphone industry. Exporters tend to enter foreign markets that are geographically close or culturally similar to their previous export destinations. Most structural work of international trade has ignored firms' sequential export decisions across countries when estimating entry costs or has failed to build a framework in which firms' export-dynamic actions can be tractable or in which entry costs can be accurately estimated. I build a dynamic model in which firms first sequentially choose global regions for penetration and then spread out over the countries in the regions. I estimate firms' region- and country-level entry sunk costs for starting a business and the country-specific fixed costs for maintaining operation. I find that entering a new region with consumer characteristics similar to the previous export regions could reduce the entry costs as drastically as 81%. Relatedly, adding countries after penetrating a region would incur much lower entry costs than the costs associated with entering the first country in that region. Stricter trade regulation in large countries, such as the G7 group, would also reduce importers' entry margins and their trade value in the surrounding, smaller European countries. Moreover, conditional on the same productivity level, the geographical location of a firm's headquarters could determine as much as 70% of the variation in global expansion and sales. My model primitives predict a world with more advanced infrastructure, which can shorten the world's distance by half, could reduce delivery cost, and greatly enhance the consumer surplus by 1.3% to 3.87%. Compared to a static model, my dynamic model reports a gradual and less volatile increase in consumer surplus and market competition.