INSTITUTIONS AND TRADE: COMPETITORS OR COMPLEMENTS IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT?
A recent paper by Dowrick and Golley (2004) finds that the impact of trade on growth varies with income. In particular, during the period 1980-2000, trade is observed to yield larger benefits for the more advanced economies. This result is backed up by Dejong and Ripoll (2005) who show that the richer countries benefit more from tariff reduction than the poorer countries. These findings raise the question, what is it about high levels of per capita income that enable richer economies to take better advantage of trade? It appears that the reason behind the success of the high income economies is the high quality institutions. These institutions not only boost growth directly but they impact economic performance indirectly by improving trade. We capture the complementarity between institutions and trade by estimating an empirical growth model which includes an interactive term involving these two variables. Better quality institutions are indicative of lower transaction costs which facilitates trade. It also ensures better distribution of the gains from trade paving the way for further trade and growth.
In this paper we contribute to the debate over the empirical relationship between trade openness and economic development. Unlike previous studies which treat trade openness and institutions as competitors in economic development, we find evidence that they are in fact complements. We also find that in order for a country to benefit from trade, its institutional quality has to be above a threshold level. These results are suggestive of a very important complementary role of both trade openness and institutions in economic development.
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