A striking feature of many financial crises is the collapse of exports relative to output. In the 2008 financial crisis, real world exports plunged 17 percent while GDP fell 5 percent. This paper examines whether the drying up of trade finance can help explain the large drops in exports relative to output. This paper is the first to establish a causal link between the health of banks providing trade finance and growth in a firm’s exports relative to its domestic sales. We overcome measurement and endogeneity issues by using a unique data set, covering the Japanese financial crises of the 1990s, which enables us to match exporters with the main bank that provides them with trade finance. Our point estimates are economically and statistically significant, suggesting that trade finance accounts for about one-third of the decline in Japanese exports in the financial crises of the 1990s.
The negative effect of distance on bilateral trade is one of the most robust findings in international trade. However, the underlying causes of this negative relationship are less well understood. This paper exploits a temporary shock to distance, the closing of the Suez canal in 1967 and its reopening in 1975, to examine the effect of distance on trade and the effect of trade on income. Time series variation in sea distance allows for the inclusion of pair effects which account for static differences in tastes and culture between countries. The distance effects estimated in this paper are therefore more clearly about transportation costs in the trade of goods than typical gravity model estimates. Distance is found to have a significant impact on trade with an elasticity that is about half as large as estimates from typical cross sectional estimates. Since the shock to trade is exogenous for most countries, predicted trade volume from the shock can be used to identify the effect of trade on income. Trade is found to have a significant impact on income. The time series dimension allows for country fixed effects which control for all long run income differences. Because identification is through changes in sea distance, the effect is coming entirely through trade in goods and not through alternative channels such as technology transfer, tourism, or foreign direct investment.