DP15387 Offshoring and Inflation

Author(s): Diego Comin, Robert Johnson
Publication Date: October 2020
Programme Areas: International Trade and Regional Economics, International Macroeconomics and Finance, Monetary Economics and Fluctuations, Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15387

Did trade integration suppress inflation in the United States? We say no, in contradiction to the conventional wisdom. Our answer leverages two basic facts about the rise of trade: offshoring accounts for a large share of it, and it was a long-lasting, phased-in shock. Incorporating these features into a New Keynesian model, we show trade integration was inflationary. This result continues to hold when we extend the model to account for US trade deficits, the pro-competitive effects of trade on domestic markups, and cross-sector heterogeneity in trade integration in a multisector model. Further, using the multisector model, we demonstrate that neither cross-sector evidence on trade and prices, nor aggregate time series price level decompositions are informative about the impact of trade on inflation.