Discussion paper

DP11506 Better, Faster, Stronger: Global Innovation and Trade Liberalization

This paper estimates the effect of trade policy during the Great Liberalization of the
1990s on innovation in over 60 countries using international firm-level patent data.
The empirical strategy exploits ex-ante differences in firms’ exposure to countries and
industries, allowing us to construct firm-specific measures of tariffs. This provides a
source of variation that enables us to establish the causal impact of trade policy on
innovation. Our results suggest that trade liberalization has economically significant
effects on innovation and, ultimately, on technical change and growth. According to
our estimates, about 7 percent of the increase in knowledge creation during the 1990s
can be explained by trade policy reforms. Furthermore, we find that the increase in
patenting reflects innovation, rather than simply more protection of existing knowledge.
Both improved market access and more import competition contribute to the positive
innovation response to trade liberalization.


Ulltveit-Moe, K, A Moxnes and F Coelli (2016), ‘DP11506 Better, Faster, Stronger: Global Innovation and Trade Liberalization‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 11506. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp11506