Discussion paper

DP14080 Sector and Importer Determinants of Prices for Traded Intermediates

While the literature on traded goods prices emphasizes final goods prices and related consumer theory to explain variation in goods prices with importer characteristics, trade in intermediates actually constitutes about two-thirds of total trade. We propose a mechanism for explaining variations in the prices of intermediates as a function of importer characteristics, wherein production is vulnerable to failure and the probability of failure declines in the quality of intermediates. Higher wages mean a greater opportunity cost of failure, leading to a stronger demand for high-quality intermediates where firms face higher wages. We find empirical support for this mechanism in the case of intermediate goods using IV regressions. In addition, our findings indicate that while the cost of labor explains about one-fifth of variation in imported intermediate prices, it is a non-significant determinant of imported final good prices.


Bekkers, E, J Francois and M Manchin (2019), ‘DP14080 Sector and Importer Determinants of Prices for Traded Intermediates‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14080. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14080