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RCA indices, multinational production and the Ricardian trade model

Kaveri Deb () and William Hauk ()
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Kaveri Deb: Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati

International Economics and Economic Policy, 2017, vol. 14, issue 1, No 1, 25 pages

Abstract: Abstract The practice of using Revealed Comparative Advantage (RCA) Indices to determine the flow of goods trade among countries is well established. But an important issue that demands attention is whether the RCA indices reflect the essentials of comparative advantage theory. Deb and Basu Foreign Trade Rev 46(3):3–28, (2011) examined the consistency of alternative RCA indices with the Heckscher-Ohlin theory of comparative advantage, leaving scope for re-examination of the indices in the context of the Ricardian comparative advantage theory, which insists on relative factor productivity differences among countries contrary to Heckscher-Ohlin’s relative factor endowment differences. The other issue which has been overlooked in much of the existing literature is the importance of value-added trade. With the growing importance of global production chains, RCA indices based on gross export values may not portray an accurate picture of the underlying comparative advantage of countries. In this context, adjusting the RCA indices to incorporate domestic value-added in exports seems to be quite relevant. This paper explores the consistency of RCA indices based on domestic value-added in exports with the Ricardian theory of comparative advantage using a panel data approach. A brief review on the structures of alternative RCA indices is also provided. The Log-of-Balassa index is found to be the best performer in this empirical examination, although the deficiencies of the index for cross-country or cross-commodity comparison must be acknowledged. The index of Yu et al. Ann Reg Sci 43(1):267–282, (2009) does possess the latter feature but in our study its performance is quite poor and hence its consistency with the Ricardian theory of comparative advantage is questionable.

Keywords: Revealed comparative advantage index; Ricardian theory; Exports; Value-added exports (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: F14 C12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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DOI: 10.1007/s10368-015-0317-z

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