New evidence on trade liberalization and productivity growth

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Although the subject of a large number of studies, the debate on the links between trade reform and productivity growth is still unresolved and most studies at the micro level have not been able to establish a relationship between the two phenomena. Brazil provides a natural experiment to study this issue that is seldom available: it was one of the closest economies in the world until 1988, when trade reform was launched, and intra-industry data are available on an annual basis before, during and after liberalization. Using a panel of industry sectors this paper tests and measures the impact of trade reform on productivity growth. Results confirm the association between the former and the latter and show that the magnitude of the impact of tariff reduction on the growth rates of TFP and output per worker was substantial. Our data reveal large and widespread productivity improvement, so that the estimations in this paper are an indication that liberalization had an important effect on industrial performance in the country. Cross-sectional differences in protection are also investigated.

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