Market Positioning of Varieties in World Trade: is Latin America Losing Out on Asia?
There is increasing empirical evidence that trade specialisation and competition takes place in varieties rather than in products or industries. This paper examines recent changes in the export specialisation of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and their Asian competitors by looking at their vertical specialisation through prices. Three price (or quality) segments are distinguished to compare export performance between the two regions using our BACI database, which provides harmonised bilateral unit values for most countries in the world at the most disaggregated product-level (5,000 products) for the period 1995 to 2004. The technology-content of products is also taken into account. The evidence suggests that LAC is losing out on China which is gaining large market shares, notably in the low-quality segment and low-tech segment. However, LAC has retained its initial overall market share, by slightly upgrading the quality and technology content of its exports. Our estimates of similarities in export structures confirm that varieties exported by the two continents are very different. Moreover, LAC export prices are much higher than those of China, but relatively similar to the ones of other Asian nations. Finally, we analyse the determinants of unit values of Latin American and Asian exports. Econometric tests confirm that the type of global competition differs between the two regions: prices play a bigger role in the case of Asian exports, whereas Latin America competes more on quality in world markets.
Export unit values; vertical differentiation; Latin America; Asia
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