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The effect of the internet on international trade

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We find that the Internet stimulates trade. Evidence from time-series and cross-section regressions shows a significant effect of the Internet on trade in recent years. Our results suggest that a 10 percentage point increase in the growth of web hosts in a country leads to about a 0.2 percentage point increase in export growth. For the average country in our sample, the Internet contributed to about a 1 percentage point increase in annual export growth from 1997 to 1999. We also find evidence of proximity-biased trade growth, i.e. that trade growth is lower for more distant countries, but we do not find evidence that the Internet has directly affected this bias. The evidence is consistent with a model in which the Internet reduces market-specific fixed costs of trade. In particular, we show that an Internet-related reduction in fixed costs is likely to enhance export growth. The model also shows that the Internet does not directly affect the relationship between distance and trade; however, to the extent that competition is enhanced as a result of its development, the Internet will increase the overall effect of distance on trade.

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