Review of World Economics

, Volume 149, Issue 1, pp 55–84 | Cite as

Firms’ exporting and importing activities: is there a two-way relationship?

Original Paper


The literature on firm heterogeneity and trade has highlighted that most trading firms tend to engage in both importing and exporting activities. This paper provides some evidence that helps understanding to what extent this is the result of a two-way relationship. Using firm-level data for a group of 27 Eastern European and Central Asian countries from the World Bank Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey (BEEPS) over the period 2002–2008, we estimate a bivariate probit model of exporting and importing. After controlling for size (and other firm-level characteristics) we find that firms’ exporting activity does not increase the probability of importing, while the latter has a positive effect on foreign sales. This effect is mainly channeled through an increase in firm productivity and product innovation.


Export Import Firm heterogeneity Eastern European and Central Asian countries 

JEL Classification

F14 F21 F23 



The Authors wish to thank two anonymous referees and the participants at the ISGEP Workshop held in Lüneburg for their helpful reviews and comments. The paper also benefitted from insights received at various conferences, such as Academy of International Business (Washington, DC, July 2012), Comparative Analysis of Enterprise Data (Nuremberg, April 2012), AISSEC (Macerata, June 2011). Financial support from the Italian Ministry of University and Research (PRIN 2009, project n. 2009 KEKA5W)


  1. Altomonte, C., & Bekes, G. (2010). Trade complexity and productivity (CeFiG Working Papers 12). Center for Firms in the Global Economy, Budapest.Google Scholar
  2. Alvarez, R., & López, R. (2005). Exporting and performance: Evidence from Chilean plants. Canadian Journal of Economics, 38(4), 1384–1400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amiti, M., & Konings, J. (2007). Trade liberalization, intermediate inputs, and productivity: Evidence from Indonesia. American Economic Review, 97(5), 1611–1638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andersson, M., & Lööf, H. (2009). Learning-by-exporting revisited: The role of intensity and persistence. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 111(4), 893–916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Andersson, M., Lööf, H., & Johansson, S. (2008). Productivity and international trade: Firm level evidence from a small open economy. Review of World Economics/Weltwirtschaftliches Archives, 144(4), 774–801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Augier, P., Cadot, O., & Dovis, M. (2009). Imports and TFP at the firm level: The role of absorptive capacity (CEPR Discussion Paper 7218). Centre for Economic Policy Research, London.Google Scholar
  7. Aw, B. Y., Roberts, M. J., & Winston, T. (2007). Export market participation, investments in R&D and worker training, and the evolution of firm productivity. The World Economy, 30(1), 83–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Awokuse, T. O. (2007). Causality between exports, imports, and economic growth: Evidence from transition economies. Economics Letters, 94(3), 389–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bajo-Rubio, O., & Díaz-Roldán, C. (2012). Do exports cause growth? Some evidence for the new EU members. Post-Communist Economies, 24(1), 125–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bas, M., & Strauss-Kahn, V. (2010). Does importing more inputs raise exports? Firm level evidence from France. (MPRA Paper 27315) University Library of Munich: Munich Personal RePEc Archive.Google Scholar
  11. Basile, R. (2001). Export behaviour of Italian manufacturing firms over the nineties: The role of innovation. Research Policy, 30(8), 1185–1201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Benkovskis, K., & Rimgailaite, R. (2011). The quality and variety of exports from the new EU member states. Economics of Transition, 19(4), 723–747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bernard, A. B., & Jensen, B. J. (1999). Exceptional exporter performance: Cause, effect, or both? Journal of International Economics, 47(1), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bernard, A. B., Jensen, J. B., & Schott, P. K. (2009). Importers, exporters and multinationals: A portrait of firms in the U.S. that trade goods. In T. Dunne, J. B. Jensen, Roberts M. J., (Eds.), Producer dynamics: New evidence from Micro Data. (NBER Chapters pp. 513–552). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  15. Blalock, G., & Gertler, P. J. (2004). Learning from exporting revisited in a less developed setting. Journal of Development Economics, 75(2), 397–416, doi: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2004.06.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bratti, M., & Felice, G. (2011). Are exporters more likely to introduce product innovations? (Development Working Papers 306). Centro Studi Luca d’Agliano, University of Milano.Google Scholar
  17. Bustos, P. (2011). Trade liberalization, exports, and technology upgrading: Evidence on the impact of MERCOSUR on Argentinian firms. American Economic Review 101(1), 304–40, doi: 10.1257/aer.101.1.304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Caldera, A. (2010). Innovation and exporting: Evidence from Spanish manufacturing firms. Review of World Economics/Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv, 146(4), 657–689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cassiman, B., Golovko, E., & Martínez-Ros, E. (2010). Innovation, exports and productivity. International Journal of Industrial Organization, 28(4), 372–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Castellani, D. (2002). Export behavior and productivity growth: Evidence from Italian manufacturing firms. Review of World Economics/Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv, 138(4), 605–628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Castellani, D., Serti, F., & Tomasi, C. (2010). Firms in international trade: Importers’ and exporters’ heterogeneity in Italian manufacturing industry. The World Economy, 33(3), 424–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cetintas, H., & Barisik, S. (2009). Export, import and economic growth: The case of transition economies. Transition Studies Review, 15(4), 636–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Clerides, S. K., Lach, S., & Tybout, J. R. (1998). Is learning by exporting important? Micro-dynamic evidence from Colombia, Mexico, and Morocco. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 113(3), 903–947.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Colantone, I., & Crinò, R. (2011). New imported inputs, new domestic products (Development Working Papers 312). Centro Studi Luca D’Agliano, University of Milano.Google Scholar
  25. Conti, G., Lo Turco, A., & Maggioni, D. (2011). Rethinking the import-producitvity nexus for Italian manufacturing: Do exports matter? (F.R.E.I.T. Working Paper 348). Forum for Research on Empirical International Trade.Google Scholar
  26. Crinò, R. (2011). Imported inputs and skill upgrading (Development Working Papers 323). Centro Studi Luca D’Agliano, University of Milano.Google Scholar
  27. Damijan, J. P., de Sousa, J., & Lamotte, O. (2009). Does international openness affect the productivity of local firms? Evidence from South-Eastern Europe. Economics of Transition, 17(3), 559–586.Google Scholar
  28. Damijan, P. J., & Kostevc, C. (2006). Learning-by-exporting: Continuous productivity improvements or capacity utilization effects? Evidence from Slovenian firms. Review of World Economics/Weltwirtschaftliches Archives, 142(3), 599–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. De Loecker, J. (2007). Do exports generate higher productivity? Evidence from Slovenia. Journal of International Economics, 73(1), 69–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Farinas, J. C., & Martin-Marcos, A. (2010). Foreign sourcing and productivity: Evidence at the firm level. World Economy 33(3), 482–506, doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9701.2010.01264.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Forlani, E. (2011). Irish firms’ productivity and imported inputs (CORE Discussion Papers 2010/15). Center for Operations Research and Econometrics, Université Catholique de Louvain.Google Scholar
  32. Girma, S., Görg, H., & Hanley, A. (2008). R&D and exporting: A comparison of British and Irish firms. Review of World Economics/Weltwirtschaftliches Archives, 144(4), 750–773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Girma, S., Greenaway, D., & Kneller, R. (2004). Does exporting increase productivity? A microeconometric analysis of matched firms. Review of International Economics, 12(5), 855–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Goldberg, P. K., Khandelwal, A. K., Pavcnik, N., & Topalova, P. (2010). Imported intermediate inputs and domestic product growth: Evidence from India. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 125(4), 1727–1767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Halpern, L., Koren, M., & Szeidl, A. (2009). Imported Inputs and Productivity (CeFiG Working Papers 8). Center for Firms in the Global Economy, Budapest.Google Scholar
  36. International Study Group on Export and Productivity (2008). Understanding cross-country differences in exporter premia: Comparable evidence for 14 countries. Review of World Economics/Weltwirtschaftliches Archives, 144(4), 596–635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kasahara, H., & Lapham, B. (2008). Productivity and the decision to import and export: Theory and evidence (CESifo Working Papers 2240). Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Munich.Google Scholar
  38. Kasahara, H., & Rodrigue, J. (2008). Does the use of imported intermediates increase productivity? Plant-level evidence. Journal of Development Economics, 87(1), 106–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kraay, A. (1999). Exports and economic performance: Evidence from a panel of Chinese enterprises. Revue d’Economie du Developpement, 1-2, 183–207.Google Scholar
  40. Kugler, M., & Verhoogen, E. (2009). Plants and imported inputs: New facts and an interpretation. American Economic Review, 99(2), 501–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lileeva, A., & Trefler, D. (2010). Improved access to foreign markets raises plant-level productivity\(\ldots\) for some plants. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 125(3), 1051–1099.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lo Turco, A., & Maggioni, D. (2011). The role of imports in enhancing manufacturing exports (Working Paper 363). Department of Economics, Polytechnic University of Marche.Google Scholar
  43. Lööf, H., & Andersson, M. (2010). Imports, productivity and origin markets: The role of knowledge-intensive economies. World Economy 33(3), 458–481, doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9701.2010.01263.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Maddala, G. S. (1983). Limited Dependent and Qualitative Variables in Econometrics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Melitz, M. J. (2003). The impact of trade on intra-industry reallocations and aggregate industry productivity. Econometrica, 71(6), 1695–1725.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Monfardini, C., & Radice, R. (2008). Testing exogeneity in the bivariate probit model: A Monte Carlo study. Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 70(2), 271–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Muûls, M., & Pisu, M. (2009). Imports and exports at the level of the firm: Evidence from Belgium. The World Economy, 32(5), 692–734.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Park, A., Yang, D., Shi, X., & Jiang, Y. (2010). Exporting and firm performance: Chinese exporters and the Asian financial crisis. Review of Economics and Statistics, 92(4), 822–842.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Roper, S., & Love, J. (2002). Innovation and export performance: Evidence from the UK and German manufacturing plants. Research Policy, 31(7), 1087–1102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Salomon, R. M., & Shaver, J. M. (2005). Learning by exporting: New insights from examining firm innovation. Journal of Economics & Management Strategy 14(2), 431–460, doi: 10.1111/j.1530-9134.2005.00047.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Seker, M. (2009). Importing, exporting and innovation in developing countries (Policy Research Working Paper 5156). Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  52. Serti, F., & Tomasi, C. (2008). Self-selection and post-entry effects of exports: Evidence from Italian manufacturing firms. Review of World Economics/Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv 144(4), 660–694, doi: 10.1007/s10290-008-0165-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Smeets, V., & Warzynski, F. (2010). Learning by exporting, importing or both? Estimating productivity with multi-product firms, pricing heterogeneity and the role of international trade (Working Papers 10-13). University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.Google Scholar
  54. Sterlacchini, A. (1999). Do innovative activities matter to small firms in non-R&D-intensive industries? An application to export performance. Research Policy, 28(8), 819–832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Van Biesebroeck, J. (2005). Exporting raises productivity in sub-Saharan African manufacturing firms. Journal of International Economics, 67(2), 373–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Verhoogen, E. (2008). Trade, quality upgrading, and wage inequality in the Mexican manufacturing sector. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 123(2), 489–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Vogel, A., & Wagner, J. (2010). Higher productivity in importing German manufacturing firms: Self-selection, learning from importing, or both? Review of World Economics/Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv 145(4), 641–665, doi: 10.1007/s10290-009-0031-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wagner, J. (2007). Exports and productivity: A survey of the evidence from firm-level data. The World Economy, 30(1), 60–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wagner, J. (2012). International trade and export performance: A survey of empirical studies since 2006. Review of World Economics/Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv, 148(2), 235–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wilhelmsson, F., & Kozlov, K. (2007). Exports and productivity of Russian firms: In search of causality. Economic Change and Restructuring, 40(4), 361–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wooldridge, J. M. (2005). Simple solutions to the initial conditions problem in dynamic, nonlinear panel data models with unobserved heterogeneity. Journal of Applied Econometrics, 20(1), 39–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zaghini, A. (2005). Evolution of trade patterns in the new EU member states. Economics of Transition 13(4), 629–658, doi: 10.1111/j.0967-0750.2005.00235.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kiel Institute 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Aristei
    • 3
  • Davide Castellani
    • 1
  • Chiara Franco
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Economics, Centro Studi Luca d’Agliano and IFHUniversity of PerugiaPerugiaItaly
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversity of PerugiaPerugiaItaly

Personalised recommendations