Quotation Felbermayr, Gabriel, Yotov, Yoto V. 2021. From theory to policy with gravitas: A solution to the mystery of the excess trade balances. European Economic Review. 139




Bilateral trade balances often play a controversial role in the international trade policy debate. They may reflect hidden and asymmetric (i.e., unfair) trade barriers and/or aggregate trade imbalances due to macroeconomic factors. Several studies give credence to the former argument and argue that standard gravity forces fail to explain observed bilateral trade balances, dubbing this “The Mystery of the Excess Trade Balances”. We solve the mystery and show that the gravity model explains bilateral trade balances well. Our analysis suggests that, on average, there is little room for trade cost asymmetries to lead to bilateral trade imbalances except in certain sectors (e.g., Mining and Services), where the modeling of the direct bilateral trade costs in the gravity model can be improved. We also uncover a new property of the structural multilateral resistances as asymmetric trade costs. This is exactly what solves the mystery.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation External
Type of publication Journal article
Journal European Economic Review
Citation Index SSCI
WU Journalrating 2009 A
WU-Journal-Rating new FIN-A, VW-A, WH-B
Language English
Title From theory to policy with gravitas: A solution to the mystery of the excess trade balances
Volume 139
Year 2021
Reviewed? Y
URL https://api.elsevier.com/content/article/PII:S0014292121001951?httpAccept=text/xml
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.euroecorev.2021.103875
Open Access N
JEL JEL: F1, F13, F14


Felbermayr, Gabriel (Details)
Yotov, Yoto V. (Drexel University, United States/USA)
Department of Economics (Felbermayr) (Details)
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