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Two Centuries of Bilateral Trade and Gravity Data: 1827-2014 CEPII Working Paper, N°2016-14, mai 2016 Michel Fouquin, Jules Hugot

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This document provides a detailed description of the Historical Bilateral Trade and Gravity Data set (TRADHIST) that was put together for Fouquin and Hugot (2016) and designed for historical investigations of international trade. The data set is available on the website of CEPII. Specifically, the data set has been built to explore the two modern waves of globalization: the First Globalization of the nineteenth century and the post-World War II Second Globalization. The data set gathers five types of variables: i) bilateral nominal trade flows, ii) country-level aggregate nominal exports and imports, iii) nominal GDPs, iv) exchange rates, and v) bilateral factors that are known to favor or hamper trade, including geographical distance, common borders, colonial and linguistic links, as well as bilateral tariffs. This data is unique both in terms of temporal and geographical coverage. Overall, we gather more than 1.9 million bilateral trade observations for the 188 years from 1827 to 2014. We also provide about 42,000 observations on aggregate trade, and about 14,000 observations on GDPs and exchange rates respectively.
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Highlights
We provide the most comprehensive historical trade dataset for 1827-2014.
We demonstrate that the First globalization had already begun c.1840.
We show that both the First and the Second Globalization have been associated with an increasing
regionalization of trade.
Back to the Future: International Trade
Costs and the Two Globalizations
No 2016-13 – May Working Paper
Michel Fouquin & Jules Hugot
CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
Abstract
This article provides an assessment of the nineteenth century trade globalization based on a systematic collection
of bilateral trade statistics. Drawing on a new data set of more than 1.9 million bilateral trade observations for the
1827-2014 period, we show that international trade costs fell more rapidly than intra-national trade costs from the
1840s until the eve of World War I. This nding questions the role played by late nineteenth century improvements
in transportation and liberal trade policies in sparking this First Globalization. We use a theory-grounded measure to
assess bilateral relative trade costs. Those trade costs are then aggregated to obtain world indices as well as indices
along various trade routes, which show that the fall of trade costs began in Europe before extending to the rest of the
world. We further explore the geographical heterogeneity of trade cost dynamics by estimating a border effect and a
distance effect. We nd a dramatic rise in the distance effect for both the nineteenth century and the post-World War
II era. This result shows that both modern waves of globalization have been primarily fueled by a regionalization of
world trade.
Keywords
Globalization, Trade Costs, Border Effect, Distance Effect.
JEL
F14, F15, N70.
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Working Paper
CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations1
Michel Fouquinand Jules Hugot
Abstract
This article provides an assessment of the nineteenth century trade globalization based on
a systematic collection of bilateral trade statistics. Drawing on a new data set of more than
1.9 million bilateral trade observations for the 1827-2014 period, we show that international
trade costs fell more rapidly than intra-national trade costs from the 1840s until the eve of
World War I. This finding questions the role played by late nineteenth century improvements
in transportation and liberal trade policies in sparking this First Globalization. We use a
theory-grounded measure to assess bilateral relative trade costs. Those trade costs are then
aggregated to obtain world indices as well as indices along various trade routes, which show
that the fall of trade costs began in Europe before extending to the rest of the world. We
further explore the geographical heterogeneity of trade cost dynamics by estimating a border
effect and a distance effect. We find a dramatic rise in the distance effect for both the
nineteenth century and the post-World War II era. This result shows that both modern
waves of globalization have been primarily fueled by a regionalization of world trade.
Keywords: Globalization, Trade costs, Border effect, Distance effect
JEL Classification: F14, F15, N70
1We are grateful to Thierry Mayer, Kevin H. O’Rourke, Lilia Aleksanyan, Mathieu Crozet, Guillaume Daudin,
Sébastien Jean, Christopher M. Meissner, Dennis Novy, Paul S. Sharp for helpful comments. We thank Béatrice
Dedinger and Guillaume Daudin for giving us access to the RICardo data set. This research was improved by the
comments from the participants of the EHS conference in Oxford, EEA conference in Malaga, EHA meeting in
Vancouver, FRESH meeting in Edinburgh, EGIT workshop in Berlin, EHES conference in London, EBES in Istanbul,
CIE in Salamanca, EHA meeting in Columbus, AEA in Yerevan, and seminars at CEPII, UQAM, P.U. Javeriana,
Tbilisi State University (ISET), Istanbul Technical University, LSE-Kazakh-British Technical University, University
of Bonn, Sciences Po, Université Paris-Sud (RITM), LSE and the Colombian Banco de la República.
CEPII (michel.fouquin@cepii.fr)
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (jules.hugot@gmail.com)
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
1. Introduction
The existence of two distinct periods of international market integration in the modern era – the
First Globalization of the nineteenth century and the post-World War II Second Globalization
– has been extensively documented. However, the precise chronology of the First Globalization
remains unclear. Understanding this timing is a necessary prerequisite to a proper analysis of
the causes behind globalization. Some argue that the First Globalization is a late nineteenth
century phenomenon, emphasizing the role of transportation technologies such as the steamship
(Harley, 1988, Pascali, 2014), communication technologies such as the telegraph (Steinwender,
2014), and pro-trade policies such as the gold standard (Estevadeordal et al., 2003, López-
Córdova and Meissner, 2003). Others argue that the First Globalization took off in the early
nineteenth century, emphasizing the end of various trade monopolies as a trigger (O’Rourke and
Williamson, 2002) or the role played by improvements in transportation already achieved in the
late eighteenth century (Jacks, 2005).
We adopt a systematic approach to collecting trade statistics in order to explore the chronology
and geographical pattern of both globalizations. Specifically, we compile a data set that gathers
more than 1.9 million bilateral trade observations for the 188 years from 1827 to 2014. We
also provide data on aggregate trade, aggregate and bilateral tariffs, GDP, exchange rates and
various bilateral variables commonly used in the gravity literature.
We show that the obstacles specific to international trade fell steadily from the 1840s until
World War I This result creates a new temporal perspective for the factors that are claimed to
be the leading causes of nineteenth century globalization. Disentangling these factors, however,
remains beyond the scope of this paper. The early onset of trade globalization is consistent with
evidence on freight costs2and on the European movement of unilateral trade liberalization,3
but also with those studies demonstrating that the trade treaties of the 1860s were of limited
impact.4However, this paper challenges the studies that argue that late nineteenth century
technological improvements were the key driver behind the First Globalization.5
We also explore the geographical dynamics of globalization by disentangling between a border
effect and a distance effect. We show that both waves of globalization have been associated
with an increasing response of trade to distance. In other words, both globalizations have been
driven by an increased regionalization of world trade patterns.
2Harley (1988) finds that before the 1840s, freight rates fluctuated dependent on the recurring wars that affected
Europe. He documents a continuous reduction of freight rates from c. 1840 to 1913.
3The British repeal of the Corn laws is well documented (Sharp, 2010) but it was in fact a broader phenomenon.
Between 1827 and 1855, customs duties-to-imports ratios fell from 24% to 12% in France, from 33% to 15% in
the U.K. and from 3.5% to 2.3% in the Netherlands (Detailed sources in Fouquin and Hugot (2016)).
4Accominotti and Flandreau (2006) and Lampe (2009) find that the Cobden-Chevalier network of treaties did not
contribute to expanding trade but merely substituted previous unilateral liberalizations. Lampe (2009), however,
finds some evidence of a trade-enhancing effect for particular commodities.
5Pascali (2014) claims that "the adoption of the steamship [c. 1870] was the major reason for the first wave of
trade globalization" (p.23.).
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
Trade globalization is the process by which international goods markets integrate. A simple
increase of world trade relative to output – the trade openness ratio – is therefore not sufficient
to diagnose globalization. In particular, trade openness is sensitive to the world distribution
of economic activity. Indeed, for a constant level of market integration, world trade openness
increases as the world economy becomes more scattered.6In the long run, controlling for the
dispersion of the world economy is therefore necessary to properly grasp the evolution of trade
globalization.
The economic history literature has adopted two distinct approaches to assess the extent of trade
globalization. The indirect approach looks at price-convergence. The direct approach relies on
trade statistics. The indirect approach builds on the intuition that, in the absence of international
trade costs, arbitrage should eliminate price gaps across countries. Empirically, this prediction
has been tested by measuring price gaps across different markets for the same commodity.
This approach is particularly helpful to investigate pre-modern globalization.7Indeed, the first
comprehensive customs reports were only drafted in the early eighteenth century, and only for
a handful of countries.8
Using data on colonial commodities such as cloves and pepper, O’Rourke and Williamson (2002)
observe price convergence across continents in the early nineteenth century. These commodities,
however, exhibit a high value-to-weight ratio, which makes them particularly worth trading. More
generally, the conclusions of such studies are product-dependent. For instance, using the same
approach, O’Rourke and Williamson (1994) show that the transatlantic convergence of meat
prices did not occur before c. 1900. Another caveat is that price gaps only reveal information
on trade costs when bilateral trade actually occurs and trade with third countries is negligible
(Coleman, 2007). Finally, the price gap literature has focused on long-distance trade, while our
data reveals that by 1840 more than 50% of European trade was conducted within Europe.9
Our results bring support to the more recent strand of the price gap literature that claims that
the conditions for the First Globalization were in fact already met in the late eighteenth century.
Those conditions could not translate into a surge of trade due to the recurring disruptive shocks
that plagued international relations until 1815. O’Rourke (2006) shows that international price
gaps widened during the Napoleonic Wars. He takes this as a sign that world markets were
already well connected in the late eighteenth century. Moreover, several authors find direct
6Helpman (1987) shows that a rise of trade relative to income can result from a more even distribution of world
GDP. One simple illustration emerges from the comparison of two hypothetical situations. Imagine that consumers
allocate their expenditure to countries, including their own, in proportion to their GDP, i.e. that markets are
perfectly integrated. In the first situation, the world GDP is shared between two identical countries: world openness
is therefore 50%. In the second situation, there are 5 identical countries. Consumers therefore allocate 4/5 of
their expenditure to foreign countries. World trade openness is therefore 80%.
7Sources of pre-modern price data include the records of the Dutch East India Company (Bulbeck et al., 1998),
the accounts of hospitals (Hamilton, 1934) and even Babylonian tablets (Földvári and van Leeuwen, 2000).
8We collected trade statistics from 1697, 1703 and 1720, respectively for the thirteen colonies, Britain and France.
9This figure relies on a sample of five European countries: Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.K.
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
evidence of price convergence in the eighteenth century.10 The causes behind this nascent
market integration, however, remain unclear.11 What is certain is that the Congress of Vienna,
in 1815, marked the beginning of a century-long period of peace in Europe,12 associated with a
rise of trade of an unprecedented magnitude.
The direct approach to assessing the timing of globalization relies on observed bilateral trade.
The vast majority of these studies, however, focus on the 1870-1913 period13 (Estevadeordal
et al., 2003, Jacks et al., 2008, López-Córdova and Meissner, 2003). This may give the false
impression that the First Globalization began later than it actually did. Jacks et al. (2008) use
trade statistics to infer aggregate international relative trade costs. Their measure of trade costs
builds upon the Head and Ries index (2001), which is itself derived from the gravity equation.
They find substantial trade cost reductions between 1870 and 1913. Beyond the limitation in
terms of temporal coverage, their study concentrates on three countries: France, Britain, and
the USA. As opposed to previous studies, our work relies on a systematic collection of trade
statistics before 1870 and back to 1827.14
We use aggregate international relative trade costs as a tool for evaluating the timing of glob-
alization. These trade costs are consistent with our definition of globalization as they are an
inverse measure of changes in trade that controls for the world distribution of production and
expenditure. While we rely on an aggregate measure, some authors have tried to measure in-
dividual components of trade costs.15 This bottom-up approach has several drawbacks when it
comes to tracking overall trade costs over time. Indeed, trade costs range from observable bar-
riers – such as tariffs or freight costs – to a variety of unobservable features, such as language
barriers and taste preferences. Using the gravity model, Anderson and van Wincoop (2004)
estimate that observable trade barriers only account for a 20% tariff equivalent cost, out of a
74% typical international trade costs for rich countries.16 Head and Mayer (2013) refer to these
unobservable components as "dark trade costs". They find that these hidden costs account for
72 to 96% of distance-related trade costs. These results cast a long shadow on the possibility
of recovering aggregate trade costs based on a bottom-up approach.
10Sharp and Weisdorf (2013) and Dobado-González et al. (2012) focus on British-American wheat trade, Rönnbäck
(2009) uses data on eleven colonial commodities, Jacks (2004) focuses on trade in the North and Baltic Seas.
11One exception is Solar (2013), who documents a steep reduction of shipping costs between c. 1770 and c. 1820.
12The Crimean War and the wars related to the German and Italian unification are the only exceptions.
13Lampe (2009) is an exception as he collected product-level bilateral trade data for seven countries from 1857 to
1875. His focus, however, is not on the timing of globalization, but on the heterogeneous effect of the Cobden-
Chevalier network of trade treaties across commodities.
14Jacks et al. (2011) extend the sample to 130 country pairs, of which 61 do not involve France, Britain or the
USA. By comparison, our sample covers more than 42,000 country pairs, including about 1,500 country pairs for
the 1827-1870 period. We provide a comparison of our data set with three others in Table 2.
15Anderson and van Wincoop (2004) provide a survey of this literature.
16We define observable trade barriers as freight costs plus protectionist policies. Anderson and van Wincoop (2004)
find that they respectively result in an 11% and a 8% tariff equivalent cost: 1.11 ×1.08 = 1.20.
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
We choose a top-down approach and use observed trade to infer aggregate international relative
trade costs. This method has the advantage of capturing all the possible components of trade
costs without having to assume an ad-hoc specification for each of them. On the flip side, the
top-down approach prevents us from identifying the individual components of trade costs.
The measure of trade costs we use takes its roots in the gravity literature. Specifically, we use
the Head and Ries index to relate observed trade to the frictionless counterfactual that emerges
from the structural gravity theory. Aggregate trade costs are inferred from this comparison.
Economists have derived gravity equations from a variety of general equilibrium trade models
(Anderson and van Wincoop, 2003, Krugman, 1980, Eaton and Kortum, 2002, Chaney, 2008,
Melitz and Ottaviano, 2008). Head and Mayer (2014) review these micro-foundations and coin
"structural gravity" the models that involve multilateral resistance terms.17 These multilateral
factors reflect the fact that bilateral trade does not only depend on bilateral factors but also on
the costs associated with the outside option of trading with third countries. Head and Mayer
(2014) show that all structural gravity models yield the same macro-level gravity equation.
The generality of the gravity equation allows the skeptical reader to remain agnostic as to
which model best describes the fundamental reasons to trade. This becomes crucial when
dealing with a period of almost two centuries as it can be argued that the reasons to trade
have changed dramatically.18 Beyond its generality, the Head and Ries trade cost index presents
several advantages. First, it perfectly controls for the country-specific determinants of trade
emphasized by the structural gravity literature, including supply and demand but also multilateral
resistance terms. Second, the Head and Ries index is bilateral-specific, which allows us to
explore the dynamics of globalization across trade routes. Third, the Head and Ries index can
be converted into a tariff equivalent measure (Jacks et al., 2008), on the condition of imposing
a value for the elasticity of trade with respect to trade costs (hereafter: trade elasticity).
We also contribute to the literature by providing the first estimates of the trade elasticity for
the nineteenth century. The trade elasticity reflects the response of trade to trade costs in any
structural gravity model. A small trade elasticity reveals large incentives to trade, as agents are
ready to pay high costs to trade across borders. In the end, the larger the theoretical gains
from trade, the higher will be the measure of trade costs inferred from any given observed trade
flows. The reasons why the trade elasticity may have changed depend on the micro-level factors
that push countries to trade.19 In a monopolistic competition framework, product varieties may
become closer substitutes as more countries industrialize. In a Ricardian framework, productivity
17Equation (2), p.8. Arkolakis et al. (2012) also emphasize the generality of the gravity equation. Similarly, Allen
et al. (2014) provide a unifying theory they call "universal gravity".
18e.g. economies of scale have been claimed to become key drivers of trade after World War II (Krugman, 1980).
19We have no reason to believe that the trade elasticity is volatile in the short run: Broda and Weinstein (2006)
estimate the elasticity of substitution for two recent periods: 1972-1988 and 1990-2001, at the product level.
They find a small and insignificant reduction in the median elasticity: from 2.5 to 2.2 (Table IV, p.568).
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
across sectors may become more homogeneous due to technology convergence. Both these
claims imply a reduction of the theoretical gains from trade. As the potential gains peter out,
consumers become more reluctant to pay higher costs to obtain foreign goods. Trade therefore
becomes more sensitive to trade costs and the trade elasticity increases.
We use bilateral tariffs to identify the trade elasticity in both the cross section and the time
dimension. None of our estimates is statistically different from an interval between 5.24
and 5.39, which is surprisingly close to the median value of 5.03 found by Head and Mayer
(2014) in their meta-analysis of trade elasticities estimated on World War II data. We conclude
that the trade elasticity did not substantially change over the last two centuries 20 and therefore
use 5.03 as our benchmark value.
We elicit differences in the dynamics of trade costs across trade routes. In particular, we show
that trade costs fell faster within Europe that across long distance routes during the nineteenth
century. We then make further use of the gravity equation to investigate the geographical
pattern of trade cost dynamics. Specifically, we decompose overall trade costs into a component
that is independent of the distance between the trading partners – the border effect – and a
distance effect. The border effect is the average trade reducing effect of international borders,
once distance is taken into account. The distance effect reflects the negative impact of distance
on trade. This decomposition, however, requires imposing an ad-hoc – although standard –
functional form for trade costs. In the end, we show that both waves of globalization have been
disproportionately fueled by an increase in short-haul trade. This feature has been documented
for the Second Globalization by Combes et al. (2008) and Disdier and Head (2008), but this
article is the first to find a similar pattern for the nineteenth century.
As a last step, we provide a distance equivalent measure of the border effect, which shows that
both waves of globalization have been associated with borders becoming "thinner", i.e. that
distance-induced trade costs rose relative to border-related costs. This provides another way to
illustrate the increased regionalization of trade patterns over the course of both globalizations.
Section 2 discusses the Head and Ries index of trade costs. Section 3 introduces the data. In
Section 4, we estimate the trade elasticity for the nineteenth century. In Section 5, we estimate
our index of world trade costs. Section 6 explores the heterogeneity of trade cost dynamics
across trade routes. In Section 7, we decompose trade costs into a border and a distance effect,
and compute a measure of border thickness. Section 8 provides concluding remarks.
20A stable aggregate trade elasticity could very well hide substantial changes at the commodity level.
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
2. The Head and Ries measure of trade costs
The empirical literature has isolated particular components of international trade costs, such as
language barriers or transportation costs. This approach often comes at the cost of imposing
somewhat arbitrary functional forms for these barriers. Moreover omitted variable bias becomes
a source of concern as only a subset of the potential barriers are included in these regressions.
Head and Ries (2001) tackle this issue and derive a comprehensive index that infers trade costs
from observed trade flows. The Head and Ries index therefore captures both the observable
and the unnobservable components of trade costs.21 This feature is particularly appealing since
data on the components of trade costs is hardly available for the nineteenth century.
The Head and Ries index controls perfectly for the country-specific determinants of trade,
including supply and demand as well as multilateral resistance terms. In turn, the Head and
Ries index precisely reveals international trade costs relative to domestic ones, for each pair of
country. On the other hand, atheoretical measures, such as the trade openness ratio, do not
allow to disentangle between trade costs and internal factors.22 An example is given by Eaton
et al. (2011) who document a steep reduction of trade openness during the trade collapse of
2008-2009 while trade costs remained rather stable.
Head and Ries derive their trade cost index from both the monopolistic competition model of
Krugman (1980) and a perfect competition model of national product differentiation, similar
to Anderson and van Wincoop (2003) (hereafter: AvW). The Head and Ries index relates
observed trade to the frictionless prediction that emerges from both models. The comparison
of actual trade to the frictionless counterfactual yields a measure of the aggregate trade barriers
associated with each country pair. Novy (2013) shows that the Head and Ries index can be
derived from a broader range of models, including the Ricardian (Eaton and Kortum, 2002) and
heterogeneous firms models (Chaney, 2008, Melitz and Ottaviano, 2008).23 More generally, the
Head and Ries index can be derived from any structural gravity equation of the form:
Xij =YiXj
PiΠj
τ
i j ,(1)
where Pi=Pl
τ
i` X`
Π`and Πj=P`
τ
`j Y`
P`.`indexes third countries.
Bilateral trade (Xi j ) is positively related to production in the origin country (Yi), expenditure
in the destination country (Xj); and negatively related to the exporter’s outward multilateral
21The Head and Ries index not only captures trade costs per se, but also home and third country-biased preferences
(e.g. if French consumers particularly dislike British products, the Franco-British trade cost will be high). The
trade cost measure that we eventually compute converts these preferences into a tariff equivalent.
22Figure A.1 reports aggregate export openness ratios for six balanced samples.
23The AvW model builds upon an Armington demand structure to yield a gravity equation: trade occurs because
of consumers’ taste for variety. In the Ricardian model, trade occurs because of countries’ comparative advantages
in production. In heterogeneous firms models, trade is related to firms’ advantages in productivity.
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
resistance term (Pi), the importer’s inward multilateral resistance term (Πj) and bilateral trade
costs (τi j ). The trade elasticity ( < 0) gives the response of trade to trade costs.
The multilateral resistance terms capture the fact that bilateral trade does not only depend on
bilateral factors but also on trade costs with third source and outlet countries.24 These terms
provide a challenge as they cannot be solved for analytically. Head and Ries (2001) provide
an elegant solution to cancel them out; as a result, they are able to obtain a ratio of bilateral
relative to internal trade costs. Multiplying equation (1) by its counterpart for the symmetric
flow and assuming balanced trade at the country level (Yi=Xi) yields:25
Xij Xji = (YiYj)2τ
ij τ
ji
PiPjΠiΠj.(2)
The gravity equation for internal trade writes:
Xii =Y2
i
PiΠi
τ
i i .(3)
Rearranging equation (3) yields an expression for PiΠi(PjΠj):
PiΠi=Y2
iτ
ii
Xii
.(4)
Plugging the previous equation for PiΠiand PjΠjback into equation (2) yields:
Xij Xji =Xi i Xjj τi j τji
τii τjj
.(5)
Rearranging and taking the geometric average of both directional relative trade costs yields the
Head and Ries index of trade cost:
τij τji
τii τjj
2
=sXij Xji
Xii Xjj
.(6)
The Head and Ries index is a top-down measure: it makes use of theory to infer trade costs
from the observable variables in the right hand side of the equation. The Head and Ries index is
also a relative measure of trade costs: it evaluates the barriers to trading with a foreign partner,
24In atheoretical estimations of the gravity equation, multilateral resistance terms were often approximated by a
weighted average of distance to third countries. See a discussion in AvW (2003), pp.173-174. Baldwin and Taglioni
(2006) refer to the omission of multilateral resistance terms as the "gold medal mistake" of the gravity literature.
25Novy (2007) shows that the trade cost measure remains valid under imbalanced trade (Appendix A.3., p.32).
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
relative to internal trade barriers. Any variation of the index can therefore reveal changes
in international or intra-national trade costs. The intuition is that the more countries trade
internally26 as opposed to with foreign partners, the larger international trade barriers must be
relative to internal barriers. Trade costs should a priori not be assumed to be symmetric. In this
setting, however, only the geometric average of both directional trade costs can be identified,
which renders impossible to properly relate trade costs to direction-specific explanatory factors.
Jacks et al. (2008) propose a tariff equivalent interpretation of the Head and Ries index. In the
general framework of structural gravity, their measure of trade costs writes:
T Cij rτij τj i
τii τjj
1 = Xii Xjj
Xij Xji 1
2
1.(7)
To illustrate equation (7), let us consider two perfectly integrated markets. For this pair of
countries, the international trade barriers are nil. The tariff-equivalent trade cost must therefore
equal zero. In turn, the ratio in the right hand side of equation (7) must be equal to one. In
other words, in a frictionless world, the product of two countries’ internal trade should be equal
to the product of the bilateral flows that link them.
Computing the Jacks et al. (2008) measure of trade costs requires to set a value for the trade
elasticity. In the benchmark results, we set to -5.03, which is the preferred estimate from the
meta-analysis of Head and Mayer (2014).27 In Section 4, we provide our own estimates for the
nineteenth century and show that they are not significantly different from our benchmark value.
3. Data
One distinctive feature of this research has been to systematically collect bilateral and aggregate
trade data as well as GDP and exchange rates between 1827 and 2014. Fouquin and Hugot
(2016) provide a detailed description of the data. Here we simply emphasize some key features.
Table 1 provides a summary of the main variables. Table 2 compares our data with three bilateral
trade data sets of reference. In order for these comparisons to be meaningful, we compare each
of these data sets with the sub-sample of our own data that covers the same period.28 At
constant time coverage and in terms of the number of observed trade flows, our data set is
therefore more than twice as large as (Pascali, 2014), about 11 times larger than (Jacks et al.,
2011) and more than 6 times the size of (Barbieri and Keshk, 2012).
26We discuss the measure of internal trade we use in Section 3.
27Specifically, we use the median coefficient from their meta-analysis, restricted to the structural gravity estimates
identified through tariff variation (see Table 5, p.33).
28We restrict the samples to the years before 1948 because all the data sets rely on the same data from the IMF
after that point.
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
Bilateral Total Total GDP Exchange Bilateral
trade exports imports rates tariffs
Dimension country-pair country country country country country-pair
direction-year1year year year year direction-year
Number of observations 1,904,574 21,085 20,869 14,084 14,381 8,720
Number of country pairs 42,447 410
Number of countries2319 247 245 218 145 172
1Each year, in theory, two trade flows pertain to each country pair: the exports from country A to country B and the
exports from country B to country A.
2We use the word "country" to designate any administrative entity for which bilateral data is reported.
Table 1 – Summary of the main variables
Coverage Our data Pascali Jacks et al. Barbieri and
(2014) (2011)1Keshk (2012)
Bilateral trade flows 51,710 23,0002
Country pairs 1850-1900 2,476 1,0002
Countries 191 129
Bilateral trade flows 238,850 21,806 38,646
Country pairs 1870-1947 14,497 298 2,036
Countries 295 27 68
1We use the data from which the balanced sample used in Jacks et al. (2011) has been extracted.
2Approximated figures extracted from Pascali (2014), p.2.
Table 2 – Comparison of the bilateral trade data with three data sets of reference, at
constant time coverage
The use of bilateral trade data to compute international relative trade costs is straightforward,
but the results also depend on the measure of internal trade. Unfortunately, data on aggregate
domestic shipments does not exist for as large a spatial and time coverage. Instead, we use
a measure of gross output, from which we subtract aggregate exports. Most gravity-oriented
articles on nineteenth century trade use constant price GDP data from Maddison (2001) (Jacks
et al., 2008, 2011, Pascali, 2014, Estevadeordal et al., 2003, López-Córdova and Meissner,
2003) sometimes reflated using the U.S. price index.29 On the other hand, the structural
gravity theory demands that both trade flows and GDP are entered in nominal terms. Indeed,
29Baldwin and Taglioni (2006) coined this adjustment of GDP series the "bronze medal mistake" in the gravity
literature: "Since there are global trends in inflation rates, inclusion of [the U.S. price index] probably creates
biases via spurious correlations", p.7.
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
the gravity equation is a function that allocates nominal expenditures across countries, i.e. that
allocates nominal GDP into nominal imports. We therefore rely exclusively on nominal series.
Internal trade, as any measure of trade, is a gross concept in the sense that it includes intermedi-
ate goods. It should thus be measured as gross domestic tradable output, minus total exports.30
Unfortunately, reconstructions of national accounts have concentrated on GDP series that are
by definition net of intermediary consumption. Our approach is to use the average ratio of gross
output to value added taken from de Sousa et al. (2012) to scale up current price GDP data
and obtain an approximation of gross output.31 We finally subtract total exports and use the
resulting series as our benchmark measure of internal trade.32
4. Estimation of the trade elasticity
The trade elasticity is a necessary parameter to infer trade costs from trade data. Indeed, a
strong response of trade to trade costs translates in lower trade costs being inferred from the
same data. In the extreme case, if consumers are infinitely sensitive to trade costs, then the
absence of trade does not reveal prohibitive trade costs, but simply a total lack of interest for
foreign goods. In our case, any observed reduction of trade costs can therefore be genuine, or
an artifact due to a fall in the (absolute) trade elasticity over time. Checking for long run trends
in the trade elasticity is therefore crucial to establishing the robustness of our results. Beyond
our direct interest, the trade elasticity is also a key parameter in the recent literature which
aims at recovering the welfare gains from trade. In particular, Arkolakis et al. (2012) show
that in a broad class of trade models two statistics are sufficient to calculate countries’ welfare
gains from trade: the import openness ratio and the trade elasticity. Historical estimations of
the trade elasticity are therefore a necessary prerequisite to any structural investigation of the
welfare gains associated with nineteenth century trade.
Head and Mayer (2014) show that in any trade model that yields structural gravity, the trade
elasticity is related to the parameter that governs the scope for trade gains. More precisely, the
response of trade to trade costs decreases with the potential trade gains. It is thus necessary to
look into the models to understand the micro-level reasons for changes in the trade elasticity.
30Gross output =GDP +Intermediary consumption. Measuring internal trade as Gross output exports is
especially relevant for countries that are very open to trade, as for some years, failing to adjust GDP for intermediate
consumption would result in negative internal trade. For further discussion, see Head and Mayer (2014), p.169.
31Specifically, we aggregate their figures across industrial sectors to obtain an average ratio of 3.16. We then take
the product of this ratio and GDP as a measure of gross output.
32We provide alternative results with internal trade measured as: Tradable GDP exports. To do so, we decompose
GDP into a tradable (agriculture and industry) and a non-tradable component (services). We scale-up this data
using ratios of value added to gross production. For the industrial sector, we use the ratio from de Sousa et al.
(2012). For agriculture, we use a ratio of 2.4 (INSEE, Compte provisoire de l’agriculture, May 2013). This comes
at the cost of restricting the sample to 58% of its full potential. In Figure A.15, we estimate our world trade cost
index using this alternative method.
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
In the demand-side models of AvW (2003) (perfect competition) and Krugman (1980) (monop-
olistic competition), the trade elasticity is linked to the elasticity of substitution across varieties
(= 1 σ). Countries trade to satisfy consumers’ love of variety. In turn, when varieties are
close substitutes (large σ), the incentives for trading narrow and the (absolute) trade elasticity
increases. An increasing similarity of the goods produced across countries would therefore lead
to a rise of the trade elasticity. In supply-side models such as the Ricardian model (Eaton and
Kortum, 2002) and heterogeneous firms models (Chaney, 2008, Melitz and Ottaviano, 2008), θ
(γ) is the parameter that governs the degree of heterogeneity of industries’ (Ricardo) or firms’
productivity (heterogeneous firms). The less heterogeneity on the production side (large θor
γ), the smaller the scope for trade gains and the larger the trade elasticity. An homogenization
of industries’ or firms’ productivity would therefore lead to a rise of the trade elasticity.
We follow Romalis (2007) and use bilateral tariffs to identify the trade elasticity in both the cross
section and the time dimension using French data for 1829-1913. The identifying assumption
is that tariffs are pure cost shifters, i.e. that trade costs react one for one to changes in tariffs.
We begin with the structural gravity equation:
Xijt =Yit Xjt
Pit Πjt
τ
ijt.(8)
We specify trade costs as follows:
τijt = (1 + ti j t )×Di stα1
ij ×exp(α2Coloijt)×exp(α3Coml angij )
×exp(α4Co nt ii j )×ηijt,(9)
where tijt is a measure of bilateral tariffs. Dis ti j is the population-weighted great-circle dis-
tance. Co loijt,Comlangi j and Contiij are three dummies that account for colonial relationship,
common language and a shared border. ηijt reflects the unobserved components of trade costs.
We estimate the trade elasticity using the ratio of bilateral customs duties to imports as a
proxy for bilateral tariffs. A caveat should be noted: tariffs have an ambiguous link to these
ratios. First, higher tariffs increase the value of the customs duties that are collected. At the
same time, tariffs reduce imports by making imported goods more expensive33. The resulting
duties-to-imports ratios may therefore underestimate the actual level of protection. In turn, the
trade elasticities we estimate should be considered as lower bounds (in absolute terms).
33In particular, the prohibitive tariffs that were imposed on some products until the late nineteenth century result
in an underestimation of the actual level of protection. See the Irwin-Nye controversy (Nye, 1991, Irwin, 1993).
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
We obtain the cross-section equation by plugging equation (9) into (8), taking logs and removing
time subscripts. We estimate the resulting equation separately for each year using OLS. The
notation explicitly specifies that France is always the destination country:
ln Xi F R =ln(1 + ti F R ) + γln Yi+β1ln DistiF R +β2ColoiF R
+β3Co ml angiF R +β4ContiiF R + ln ηi F R.(10)
We use the notation βx=αx×,x∈ {1,2,3,4}.Yiis the GDP of country i. The error term
(ηi F R) captures the bilateral components of trade costs that are not explicitly controlled for, as
well as origin countries’ outward multilateral resistance terms. As a result, the trade elasticities
obtained from equation (10) cannot be considered as structural estimates.34
We also identify the trade elasticity in the time dimension, using decade-long intervals. This time,
we keep the time subscripts and impose a set of origin-country fixed effects. The identification
therefore entirely comes from the time dimension:
ln Xi F Rt =ln(1 + tiF R t ) + F EiF R +γ1ln Yit +γ2ln YF Rt
+β2Co loi F Rt + ln ηi F Rt .(11)
The error term (ηiF Rt ) captures the time-varying unobserved components of trade costs, as well
as the time-varying components of both inward and outward multilateral resistance terms. The
coefficients estimated using equation (11) thus do not qualify as structural gravity estimates.
Figure 1 shows that the estimated trade elasticities are never different from each other at the
95% confidence level, which suggests that the trade elasticity has not changed significantly over
the nineteenth century. We find a median elasticity of -4.84 [2.40] and 5.07 [.70], respectively
in the cross section and the time dimension. None of these estimates is statistically different
at the 95% level of confidence from 5.03, the median value found in the meta-study of Head
and Mayer (2014). We take this as a sign that the trade elasticity did not substantially change
between the early nineteenth and the late twentieth century.35 The results of the following
sections rely on a constant trade elasticity of 5.03.
34Obtaining structural estimates would require controlling for both origin and destination country multilateral
resistance terms, for example through two sets of fixed effects. This would require bilateral tariff data for more
than one country, which we were unfortunately unable to find.
35However the standard errors are too large to claim that nineteenth century trade elasticities lied closer to the
lower or the upper bound of the post World War II estimates, which typically range from 1to 7.
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
-20 -10 0 10
trade elasticity
1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910
Cross-section estimation Time series estimation (by decade)
The shaded areas represent 95% confidence intervals
Figure 1 – Cross-sectional and longitudinal estimations of the trade elasticity: 1829-1913
5. World trade cost indices
Once equipped with a value for the trade elasticity, we can use equation (7) to compute trade
costs. We obtain more than 370,000 measures of trade costs for about 14,000 country pairs.
Reporting all of the results would be impossible; instead, we report selected aggregates.
We begin by restricting the sample to the country pairs for which we obtain trade costs on a
continuous basis throughout the period.36 Figure 2 reports weighted-mean trade costs for four
balanced samples (Figure A.2 reports the simple mean).37 Specifically, we weight trade costs by
the sum of the two countries’ internal trade. We use the same aggregation method to compare
transatlantic and intra-European trade costs (Figure A.3).
Aggregating trade costs over all available country pairs is not trivial since the sample changes
over time (Figure 3). In particular, the composition of the sample may be endogenously deter-
mined as most data for early years comes from the most developed countries. In turn, exchanges
among these countries are associated with structurally low trade costs. Ignoring this sampling
bias would thus result in an underestimation of any trade cost reduction. On the other hand,
limiting the analysis to balanced panels considerably reduces the information available. In partic-
ular, many countries are simply formed or dismantled during our two centuries of interest, which
36In order to increase the number of country pairs included in the samples, we interpolate missing trade costs if
the following criteria are all satisfied: i) trade costs are observed for the initial and the last year of the sample, ii)
observed trade costs account for at least 90% of potential observations, iii) gaps are inferior or equal to 5 years.
37The 1827 sample covers: CHL-FRA, CHL-USA, DNK-FRA, ESP-FRA, ESP-GBR, ESP-PRT, ESP-USA, FRA-
GBR, FRA-PRT, FRA-USA, GBR-USA. The 1835 sample adds: BEL-DNK, BEL-ESP, BEL-FRA, BEL-GBR,
BEL-NLD, BEL-USA, COL-FRA, COL-USA, DNK-NLD, DNK-SWE, ESP-SWE, FRA-NLD, FRA-NOR, FRA-
SWE, GBR-NLD, GBR-SWE, NLD-USA, NOR-SWE, SWE-USA, while ESP-PRT and FRA-PRT leave the sample.
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
240 260 280 300 320 340
tariff equivalent (%)
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
1827 (11) 1835 (28) 1870 (93) 1921 (236)
The legend reports the initial year of each sample (# of pairs in each sample in parenthesis)
The two world wars are omitted from the samples
Figure 2 – Internal trade-weighted mean
trade costs, balanced samples
40 400 4000
number of observations (log scale)
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
Figure 3 – Number of computed bilateral
trade costs
automatically rules them out from any balanced sample.38 We therefore propose an index of
trade costs that makes use of all of the information available while also partially controlling for
the sampling bias. Specifically, we decompose trade costs into a bilateral and a time effect:39
ln T Cijt =αij F Eij +βtF Et+ηijt.(12)
The bilateral effects capture the factors that are both country-pair-specific and time-invariant
(e.g. distance, long-run cultural ties, etc.); but the pairs included in the sample vary over time.
In turn, exp(βt)is the expectation of trade costs in year trelative to the benchmark year,
conditional on the country pairs available in year t. Figure 4 plots exp(βt), which is our index
of world trade costs. Figure A.4 plots the former against a trade cost index that is obtained by
weighting each observation by the total value of both partner’s internal trade. Figure A.4 shows
that the long-run trends of the trade cost index are not driven by small countries.
Despite our correction, the trade cost index remains subject to a composition bias, as we
estimate the conditional expectation of the log of trade costs on a sample that varies over
time. The only way to eliminate this bias is to estimate equation (12) using balanced samples.
Figure 5 shows the resulting indices estimated on five samples.40 Figure 6 replicates the exercise
but this time using five sub-periods that do not extend until 2014.41 Finally, Figure 7 plots the
38We compute 14 bilateral trade costs for 1827 and about 9,000 for 2014. Over time, the number of computed
trade costs tends to increase, to the exception of the two world wars, which temporarily reduce data availability.
39We estimate equation (12) using the reghdfe command from Stata, which is itself a generalization of the xtreg,fe
command that allows for unbalanced panels.
40see footnote 36.
41These sub-periods are: 1835-1870, 1871-1912, 1921-1937, 1950-1980 and 1981-2014.
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140
1827 = 100
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
The shaded area represents the 95% confidence interval
Figure 4 – World trade cost index
95 100 105 11 0 115 120 125 130 135 140 145
2014 = 100
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
1827 (11) 1835 (28) 1870 (93) 1921 (236) 1960 (1449)
The legend reports the initial year of each sample (# of pairs in each sample in parenthesis)
The two wold wars are omitted from the samples
Figure 5 – World trade cost indices,
balanced samples
world trade cost index estimated on balanced two-year samples. The resulting estimates are
then chained to obtain a global picture of the evolution of trade costs.
Figures 4 to 7 both show a steady fall of trade costs that begins in the late 1840s and lasts until
World War I. Trade cost indices return to their 1913 levels soon after the war. Not surprisingly,
the Great Depression is associated with a rise of trade costs that extends into World War II.
Trade costs then quickly recover their pre-war level in the 1950s.42 Trade costs remain rather
stable in the three decades after World War II before resuming to fall in the late 1970s.
The level of trade costs is sensitive to the value of the trade elasticity. Figure A.5 reports the
Franco-British trade cost obtained using alternative trade elasticities. As a thought experiment,
Figure A.6 also imposes an increasing and a decreasing linear trend for the trade elasticity,
using 3and 7as extreme values. A reduction of the (absolute) value of the trade elasticity
reveals larger scope for trade gains. In the end, any observed trade cost reduction could in fact
be due to a reduction of the (absolute) trade elasticity. However, Section 4 has established the
stability of the trade elasticity for our period of interest.
6. Route-specific trade cost indices
We now explore the heterogeneity of trade costs across trade routes. Specifically, we estimate
trade cost indices based on various sub-samples. Figure 8 plots indices obtained by aggregating
42Figure 5 provides a somewhat different picture as trade costs take more than 20 years to recover their prewar
level for the the most restricted samples. This divergence is due to an over-representation in these samples of the
countries that suffered the most from the war.
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80 85 90 95 100 105
Initial year = 100
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
1835 (25) 1871 (120) 1921 (288)
1950 (820) 1981 (2544)
The legend reports the initial year of each sample (# of pairs in each sample in parenthesis)
Figure 6 – World trade cost indices,
balanced samples
Figure 7 – World trade cost index, chained
estimates from two-year balanced samples
bilateral trade costs across all partners for three countries.43 For the nineteenth century, the
patterns for France and the U.K. are similar as the largest reduction of trade costs happens
between the early 1850s and the 1870. Trade costs then remain almost stable until the Great
Depression. The patterns diverge after World War II. While trade costs trend downwards for
France until the 1980s, they start rising after 1980 for the U.K.. This means that trade costs
within the U.K. have been falling faster than international trade costs for the recent period. The
dynamics of trade costs affecting the United States is very different as the steady fall of trade
costs only begins around 1870. Trade costs only recover to their antebellum low point around
1890, which illustrates the long-lasting effect of the Civil War on U.S. foreign trade, through
the protectionist policies imposed by the victorious North. Figure A.7 reports additional trade
cost indices for Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.
Figure 9 plots trade cost indices for three regions.44 Specifically, we aggregate trade costs across
all the country pairs that include a country of the region of interest. Figure 9 shows that trade
costs start falling for core European countries in the late 1840s. For the European periphery
and the rest of the world, the high volatility prior to 1880 is followed by a dramatic reduction of
trade costs around the turn of the century. All three regions are affected by comparable rises
of trade costs during the Great Depression and World War II. After the war, trade costs remain
rather stable for Core Europe, while they fall for the European periphery. Trade costs for the
rest of the world are stable until they resume falling in the early 1990s.
43Note that for country-specific aggregations, equation (12) writes: ln T Ci t =αiF Ei+βtF Et+ηi t , where iindexes
the trading partners of the country of interest. Figure A.8 reports the corresponding chained trade cost indices,
estimated on balanced two-year samples.
44Core Europe corresponds to Northwestern Europe. The European periphery includes Central, Eastern and South-
ern Europe, together with Scandinavia. See region coding in Fouquin and Hugot (2016). Figure A.9 reports the
corresponding chained trade cost indices, estimated on balanced two-year samples.
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140
1827 = 100
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
France United Kingdom USA
To facilitate the reading, the French and British trade cost index are not reported
for 1941-1945 and 1942-1944 respectively
Figure 8 – Trade cost indices: France,
U.K., USA
70 80 90 100 11 0 120 130
1827 = 100
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
Core Europe European Periphery Rest of the World
To facilitate the reading, the trade cost indices for Core Europe and the European Periphery
are not reported for 1943-1944
Figure 9 – Trade cost indices:
Core Europe, European Periphery, Rest of
the world
Figure 10 takes a closer look at the dynamics of trade costs across Europe. The patterns are
relatively similar during the nineteenth century, except that trade costs affecting Northwestern
Europe fall more steadily. After World War II, trade costs remain stable for Northwestern Europe
and Scandinavia, but they resume falling for Southern European countries.
Figure 11 shows that trade costs also follow different patterns across trade routes. Transatlantic
trade costs are very volatile until the reduction that occurs between 1890 and World War I. The
U.S. Civil War is accompanied by a spike of trade costs, followed by a quick recovery, despite
the persistent high level of tariffs imposed by Northern states.45 It therefore seems that the
high level of protection was more than compensated by improvements in transportation and
communication technologies (Pascali, 2014, Steinwender, 2014).
After the initial spike that affects intra-European trade (Scandinavia in particular), trade costs
fall faster within Europe than across the Atlantic. The most dramatic fall of trade costs across
the Atlantic occurs in the decade before World War I. Intra-European trade costs are also more
affected by the Great Depression and the two world wars. After World War II, intra-European
trade costs fall while transatlantic trade costs increase, which points to the success of the
European integration and the consecutive relative dis-integration of transatlantic trade.
45In 1868, the U.S. aggregate tariff reaches 45% (see Figure A.10). Tariffs remain consistently high until World
War I, fluctuating between 20% and 30%, roughly twice as high as in France and the U.K..
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130
1827 = 100
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
Core Europe Scandinavia Southern Europe
To facilitate the reading, the trade cost indices for Core Europe and Scandinavia are not
reported for 1943-1944
Figure 10 – Trade cost indices:
Northwestern Europe, Scandinavia,
Southern Europe
60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130
1827 = 100
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
Intra-Europe Intra-America Transatlantic
To facilitate the reading, the trade cost index for Transatlantic trade is not reported for 1941-1944
Figure 11 – Trade cost indices:
intra-European trade, intra-American
trade, transatlantic trade
7. Regionalized globalizations
The previous section emphasizes the heterogeneity of trade costs dynamics across trade routes.
Here, we further explore the geographical dynamics of trade globalization. Once more, we begin
with the structural gravity equation:
Xij =YiXj
PiΠj
τ
i j .(13)
We impose the following functional form for bilateral trade costs:
τij = exp(a F orij )×Di s tb
ij ×ηij ,(14)
where F orij is a dummy variable set to unity if i6=j.Distij |i6=jis the population-weighted
great-circle bilateral distance and Di stij|i=jis internal distance.46 aand bare the elasticities
of trade costs to international borders and distance respectively. ηij reflects the unobserved
components of trade costs, including for example bilateral tariffs.
46For details on these variables, see Fouquin and Hugot (2016)
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CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
Plugging (14) into (13), taking logs and imposing origin and destination fixed effects to control
for the monadic determinants of trade, we estimate equation (15), separately for each year,
using the OLS estimator. The identification comes entirely from the cross-sectional variation:47
ln Xij =F Ei+F Ej+β1F ori j +β2ln Distij + ln ηi j ,(15)
where Xij|i6=jis bilateral trade and Xi j|i=jis internal trade. F Eiand F Ejare vectors of origin and
destination fixed effects. β1=a×is the border effect and β2=b×is the trade elasticity of
distance. Note that the fixed effects perfectly control for the monadic determinants of trade,
including multilateral resistance terms. Because the errors are likely correlated within country
pairs, we cluster the standard errors at the bilateral level.
7.1. Border effect
β1can be interpreted as a border effect as it reflects the average trade reducing effect of
international borders, all monadic determinants of trade and distance being equal. We convert
the border effect into a tariff equivalent using the pure cost-shifter property of tariffs.48. Indeed,
ad-valorem tariffs have a one for one relationship to trade costs. In turn, the error term of
equation (15) can be decomposed as follows:
ηij = (1 + ti j )1×Zij ,(16)
where tij is the (unobserved) ad-valorem tariff imposed by jon imports from i.Zi j is a vector
of the other bilateral components of trade costs, together with their elasticities to trade costs.
The border effect we propose is equal to the tariff that would have the same trade reducing
effect as the average border. We therefore use the β1estimated for each year via equation (15)
to solve for the border effect (BE) in the following equation:
(1 + BE)= exp(β1).(17)
The resulting tariff-equivalent border effect, converted to a percentage, writes:
BE =exp β1
1×100.(18)
47The identification of the border effect relies on a comparison of internal trade with bilateral trade as in Wei
(1996), who extended the methodology introduced by McCallum (1995) for cases in which bilateral intra-national
trade flows are not available.
48Figure A.11 reports the border effect as the exponential of β1. These values read as the number of times countries
trade more, on average, with themselves than with foreign partners, all monadic terms and distance being equal.
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Figure 12 reports the border effect with the trade elasticity () set to our benchmark value
of 5.03.49 Overall, the border effect falls from approximately 300% c. 1830 to about 150%
for most recent years. More precisely, the border effect falls until World War I, with two episodes
of stagnation: in the 1840s and the two decades between 1860 and 1880. Not surprisingly, the
border effect rises during the Great Depression and until after World War II, before resuming a
steady fall from the late 1960s. In 2014, which is the last year of the sample, the border effect
has still not reached its low point of 1920.
Our estimates are higher than those typically found in the literature. The pioneering study by
McCallum (1995) found that the U.S.-Canada border reduced trade by a factor 22 in 1988.
AvW (2003) provided the first structural estimation of the border effect (i.e. controlling for the
multilateral resistance terms) and found that the U.S.-Canada border reduced trade by a factor
5. For the corresponding years and based on our entire sample, we find a border effect about 15
times larger than McCallum’s and 37 times larger than AvW’s.50 These results can be reconciled
by acknowledging that both McCallum (1995) and AvW (2003) consider the border between
two advanced economies. On the contrary, our sample is much broader. In fact, reducing the
sample to developed countries dramatically reduces the discrepancy. For example, estimating
the border effect on E.U. internal trade yields estimates that are only 4.5 times as large as those
of AvW (2003)51 (Figure 13). In contrast, our estimates are perfectly in line with the border
effects estimated on samples similar to ours for the recent period (de Sousa et al., 2012).52
The reduction of the border effect since the 1970s is a well-established result. Helliwell (1998)
was the first to document that phenomenon, for 1991-1996. Head and Mayer (2000) provide
structural estimates for the E.U., based on data for 1975-1995. Finally, de Sousa et al. (2012)
extend the sample to the entire world, for 1980-2006 and still reach the same conclusion. In
contrast, we bring a new perspective on border-related trade barriers for the century and a
half before 1970. In particular, Figure 12 shows that the border effect fell by about one third
between 1850 and World War I. Then they doubled between 1920 and 1955 before falling again.
Consequently, the border effect is close in 2014 to its level during the run-up to World War I. In
order to find a border effect as high as in 1955, one has to go back in time to 1831. The border
effect thus appears to have followed similar trajectories during both period of globalization.
7.2. Distance elasticity
Figure 14 illustrates the rise of the distance elasticity with an example. From 1850 to 1914
the GDP of Chile grew three times faster than the Dutch GDP. Between World War I and
49Both the level and the variability of the border effect are sensitive to the value of the trade elasticity. Figure A.16
reports tariff-equivalent border effects obtained using different trade elasticites.
50For 1988, we find a border effect equal to -5.77, which implies that ceteris paribus, countries traded on average
314 times more within their borders than with foreign partners (exp(5.77 = 321)). For 1993, we find a coefficient
of -5.22 (i.e. a factor of 185).
51For E.U. member countries as of 1995, we find a coefficient equal to -3.11, which corresponds to a factor 22.
52They find a border effect of -5.97 for the 1980-2006 period (p.1043), while we find -5.51.
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100 150 200 250 300 350
tariff equivalent (%)
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
The shaded area represents the 95% confidence interval
Standard errors clustered at the bilateral level
Figure 12 – Tariff-equivalent border effect
0100 200 300 400
tariff equivalent (%)
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
All observations OECD (1964 members) EU (1995 members)
Figure 13 – Tariff-equivalent border effect:
Full sample, OECD, E.U.
2014 the GDP of both countries rose by similar magnitudes.53 Following the logic behind the
gravity model, one would expect that trade between Chile and, say, the U.K. would have at
least increased as fast as between the Netherlands and the U.K.. Figure 14 shows that in fact,
trade increased much faster with the proximate country (the Netherlands) than with the distant
country (Chile) during both waves of globalization.54 Another way to grasp the intuition behind
the changes in the distance elasticity is to look at the distribution of trade by distance for a
given country. Figure A.17 presents evidence from the Netherlands. These graphs suggest that
distance was an increasingly important factor in determining trade patterns during the nineteenth
century. The effect of distance then fell in the interwar, before rising again after World War II.
We now estimate the distance elasticity using the entire sample. Figure 15 shows that the
distance elasticity has been increasing since World War II, which is congruent with both Combes
et al. (2008) and Disdier and Head (2008).55 Yet, the present study is the first to document
a comparable rise of the distance elasticity for the nineteenth century. This increase in the
distance effect primarily affected the trade of Europe with third countries (Figure A.12). The
rise of the distance elasticity also materialized by a reallocation of European countries’ trade
towards European partners. In absolute terms, distance is an even greater binding force within
Europe than across continents. Within Europe, however, the rise of the distance elasticity was
limited until the 1870s and stable, if not declining around the turn of the twentieth century.
53Between 1850 and 1913, the Dutch GDP grew by 300%, while the Chilean GDP grew by 900%. Between 1948
and 2014, the GDP of both Chile and the Netherlands grew by 11,000% (in nominal terms).
54British exports to the Netherlands grew by 3.52% per year during the First Globalization and by 10.41% per year
after World War II. Over the same periods, British exports to Chile only grew by 1.97% and 7.87% per year.
55Disdier and Head (2008) show in their meta-analysis that the rise of the distance effect cannot be explained by
sampling error. They argue that the actual distance elasticity rose from about -0.7 in 1960 to -1.1 in 2000. They
coin this phenomenon the "distance puzzle".
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100 1000 10000 100000
current British pounds: 1850/1948=100 (log scale)
1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
The Netherlands Chile
Figure 14 – British exports to the
Netherlands and Chile
-2-1.5-1-.50
reversed axis
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
The shaded area represents the 95% confidence interval
Standard errors clustered at the bilateral level
Figure 15 – Distance elasticity
Decolonization could explain the post-World War II rise of the distance effect. Because colo-
nial links stimulate trade (Head et al., 2010) and colonies were relatively distant from their
metropolis, decolonization disproportionately reduced long-distance trade, mechanically causing
the distance elasticity to rise. Similarly, the interwar fall of the distance effect would be consis-
tent with the reallocation of European countries’ trade towards their colonies. Figure 16 shows
that colonial trade was indeed relatively less sensitive to distance. Figure 17, however, shows
that controlling for colonial links does not significantly affect the trend of the distance elasticity.
Neither colonization, nor de-colonization can therefore explain changes in the distance elasticity.
We explore the robustness of the rise of the distance elasticity to an estimation through the
Poisson Pseudo-Maximum Likelihood estimator (hereafter: PPML). Santos Silva and Tenreyro
(2006) show that the OLS only yields unbiased distance elasticities conditional on the error term
being lognormal. In the presence of heteroskedasticity, they argue that the gravity equation
should be estimated in its multiplicative form, using a non-linear estimator. They suggest to use
the PPML. In fact, Figure A.13 shows that the error terms of our OLS estimations consistently
deviate from lognormality.56 Heteroskedasticity is therefore a source of concern for our OLS
estimates. Moreover, estimating a gravity equation specified in logarithm implies to drop all
the zeros in the trade matrix. The resulting distance elasticity is thus estimated using variation
in the intensive margin. In the presence of zero-trade observations, which account for 23% of
the observations in the data, the OLS estimator therefore creates a selection bias. In contrast,
the distance elasticity can be estimated with the PPML on both the extensive and the intensive
margin. We therefore estimate the following equation using the PPML for each year:
Xij = exp(F Ei+F Ej+β1F ori j +β2ln Distij )×ηi j .(19)
56The p-values of the standard Breusch-Pagan test lie consistently below the 0.05 threshold.
25
CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
-2-1.5-1-.50
reversed axis
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
All observations Colonial Trade excluded
Figure 16 – Distance elasticity: Colonial
trade included and excluded
-2-1.5-1-.50
reversed axis
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
Colony Common Language Contiguity No controls
Figure 17 – Distance elasticity estimated
with colonial links, common language and
contiguity controls
Figure 18 compares OLS and PPML estimates.57 Consistently with Bosquet and Boulhol (2015)
the rise of the distance elasticity appears to be slower using PPML. For the nineteenth century,
the rise of the distance elasticity is also slower – though still significant. In the end, the rise of
the distance elasticity during both waves of globalization is robust to PPML estimation.
Intuitively, trade patterns are the results of an equilibrium between a force that reflects the extent
to which countries want to trade ()58 and a force that reflects how costly it is to overcome
trade barriers (b). Any change in the distance elasticity may thus arise from either of the two
factors. Equation (20) expresses the distance effect as the product of the trade elasticity and
an elasticity of trade costs to distance:
β2=×b=ln Trade
ln Trade costs ×ln Trade costs
ln Distance .(20)
There are two reasons not to believe that the rise in the distance elasticity is due to an increase
in the absolute value of the trade elasticity. First, our own estimates from Section 4 show no
significant change between 1829 and 1913. Moreover, our estimates for the nineteenth century
lie close to the estimates for the contemporary period. Another clue lies in the fact that the
trade elasticity not only affects the distance elasticity, but also the border effect. Indeed, the
border effect is the product of the trade elasticity and the elasticity of trade costs to international
borders (equation 15). Comparing Figure 12 to Figure 15 shows opposite patterns for the border
and the distance effect, despite the fact that both of them include the very same trade elasticity.
57Similarly, Figure A.14 compares the border effect obtained using the two techniques.
58= 0 means that trade does not react at all to trade barriers.
26
CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
We are thus left with the elasticity of trade costs to distance to explain the rise of the overall
distance elasticity. One explanation may be that trade liberalization has primarily targeted
neighboring countries.59 On the contrary, the interwar fall of the distance elasticity can be
linked to European countries raising tariffs vis-à-vis their neighbors and reallocating trade towards
their distant colonies. The nineteenth century rise of the distance effect could also be due to
a disproportionate impact of railways or the steamship on short international routes. As both
these innovations spread in the 1840s, this would be consistent with both the early fall of trade
costs and rise of the distance elasticity. Finally, a composition effect could explain the rise of
the distance elasticity: as transportation costs fall, more bulky products become worth trading.
In turn, these products are more sensitive to distance-related costs, in particular fuel costs.
7.3. Border thickness
We now relate the border effect to the distance effect to illustrate their relative economic
significance. To do so, we propose a measure of border thickness that reflects the distance
equivalent of the average border. The approach we take is to ask how much should bilateral
distance increase to have the same negative impact on trade as crossing the average border.60
Using equation (15), the variation of trade associated with crossing a border writes:
Xij
Xij
= exp(β1)1.(21)
Solving for the border equivalent rate of change of distance, we obtain:
Di stij
Di stij
=exp(β1)1
β2
.(22)
Taking the product of the border equivalent rate of change of distance and the mean distance
between country pairs in the sample yields the measure of border thickness:
T HI CK =exp(β1)1
β2
×Di sti j .(23)
Figure 19 plots our measure of border thickness, which is the distance equivalent of the average
border, in terms of its trade reducing effect. Hence, the thinner the border, the more important
distance is relative to borders. In other words, thin borders (lower part of the graph) reveal
regionalized trade patterns. Figure 19 thus shows that both waves of globalization have been
associated with an increasing regionalization of trade.
59The European Cobden-Chevalier network of trade treaties and the E.U. are probably the most striking examples.
60Using a regression similar to equation (15), Engel and Rogers (1996) propose a measure of border thickness
equal to exp(β12). Parsley and Wei (2001) point out that this measure is sensitive to the unit of measurement.
27
CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
-2-1.5-1-.50.5
reversed axis
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
OLS Poisson PML
The shaded areas represent 95% confidence intervals
Standard errors clustered at the bilateral level
Figure 18 – Distance elasticity: OLS vs.
PPML estimation
3000 6000 9000 12000
kilometers
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
Border Thickness Moving average over 7 years
The shaded area represents the 95% confidence interval
Standard errors clustered at the bilateral level
Figure 19 – Border thickness (Distance
equivalent of the average border)
8. Conclusion
Using systematically-collected trade and GDP data for the 188 years from 1827 to 2014, we have
shown that international relative trade costs had already begun to fall in the 1840s. This early
start contradicts the studies that claim that late nineteenth century technological improvements
in shipping and communication were responsible for sparking nineteenth century globalization.
This result also contradicts the theories that attribute the leading cause of the First Globalization
to the Gold Standard and to the trade treaties that bloomed after 1860.
The early trade cost reduction points to the role played by the unilateral trade liberalization
policies that were implemented in the late 1840s. These liberal trade policies should be associated
with the Pax Britannica that begins with the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and only comes to
an end with the First World War.61 Another potential reason for the early onset of the First
Globalization may be found in the early nineteenth century improvements in shipping technology.
This brings some perspective on the role played by the major innovations of the late nineteenth
century – the steamship, the telegraph and the diffusion of the Gold Standard – in the expansion
of world trade. At most, these factors took over from other pre-existing ones.
We have also shown that both globalizations were fueled by a relative intensification of short-
haul trade: globalizations turn out to be not so global after all. In other words, what has been
referred to as periods of "globalization" were indeed periods of internationalization, but they
were also periods of regionalization of trade patterns. This result implies that the scope for
economic integration across distant markets remains wide and largely unexploited.
61The Opium Wars, the Russo-Japanese War, and the wars related to the German and Italian unification are some
exceptions. But none of these conflicts was comparable to either the Napoleonic Wars or World War I.
28
CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
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Appendix
A. Additional figures
510 15 20 25
percentage
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
1827 (7) 1849 (13) 1861 (17)
1885 (21) 1925 (30) 1960 (110)
The legend reports the initial year of each sample (# of countries in each sample in parenthesis)
Figure A.1 – Aggregate export openness,
balanced samples
200 250 300 350 400
tariff equivalent (%)
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
1827 (11) 1835 (28) 1870 (93) 1921 (236)
The legend reports the initial year of each sample (# of pairs in each sample in parenthesis)
The two world wars are omitted from the samples
Figure A.2 – Mean trade costs, balanced
samples
200 250 300 350
tariff equivalent (%)
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
Transatlantic (5) Intra-Europe (15)
Number of country pairs in each sample in parenthesis
The two world wars are omitted from the samples
Figure A.3 – Internal trade-weighted mean
trade costs, balanced samples
70 80 90 100 110 120
1827 = 100
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
Benchmark index Internal trade-weighted index
Figure A.4 – Benchmark vs. internal
trade-weighted world trade cost indices
33
CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
0100 200 300 400 500 600
tariff equivalent (%)
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
ε = -5.03 (benchmark)
ε = -3
ε = -7 (as in Jacks et al., 2008)
To facilitate the reading, trade costs for are not reported for 1941-1946
Figure A.5 – Franco-British trade costs for
various values of the trade elasticity
0100 200 300 400 500
1827 = 100
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
Benchmark index (ε=-5.03)
Linear trend for ε: -7 (1827) to -3 (2014)
Linear trend for ε: -3 (1827) to -7 (2014)
Figure A.6 – World trade cost indices with
linear trends for the trade elasticity
50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120
1835 = 100
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
Belgium Netherlands Spain Sweden
To facilitate the reading, the Dutch trade cost index is not reported for 1918
Figure A.7 – Trade cost indices: Belgium,
the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden
60 80 100 120 140
1827 = 100
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
France United Kingdom USA
To facilitate the reading, the French and British trade cost index are not reported
for 1941-1946 and 1941-1945 respectively
Figure A.8 – Chained trade cost indices
from two-year balanced samples
CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
20 40 60 80 100 120 140
1827 = 100
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
Core Europe European Periphery Rest of the World
Figure A.9 – Chained trade cost indices
from two-year balanced samples
010 20 30 40 50 60
Customs duties-to-imports ratio (%)
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
France United Kingdom USA
Moving average over 7 years
Figure A.10 – Aggregate tariffs: France,
U.K., USA
0200 400 600 800 1000
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
The shaded area represents the 95% confidence interval
Standard errors clustered at the bilateral level
Figure A.11 – Border effect (Exponentiated
β1coefficient, from equation (15))
-3-2-1012
reversed axis
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
All observations Intra-European Trade Europe-RoW Trade
Figure A.12 – Distance elasticity: All trade
flows, intra-European trade, European
trade with the rest of the world
CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
.055.00e-085.00e-155.00e-225.00e-295.00e-36
p-value
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
Figure A.13 – P-values of the
Breusch-Pagan test for the OLS estimation
of equation (15)
100 150 200 250 300 350
tariff equivalent (%)
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
OLS Poisson PML
The shaded areas represent 95% confidence intervals
Standard errors clustered at the bilateral level
Figure A.14 – Tariff-equivalent border
effect: OLS vs. PPML estimation
75 80 85 90 95 100 105 110
1960 = 100
1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010
Internal trade = Gross output minus exports (benchmark)
Internal trade = Gross tradable output minus exports
Figure A.15 – World trade cost indices
with alternative measures of internal trade,
restricted samples
0200 400 600 800 1000
tariff equivalent (%)
1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000
ε = -5.03 (benchmark)
ε = -3
ε = -7 (as in Jacks et al., 2008)
Figure A.16 – Tariff-equivalent border
effect: Alternative trade elasticities
CEPII Working Paper Back to the Future: International Trade Costs and the Two Globalizations
Slope: -.18
.003 .03 .3 330
Imports / GDP (%)
400 1000 5000 20000
Distance (km)
1835
Slope: -.86
.003 .03 .3 330
Imports / GDP (%)
400 1000 5000 20000
Distance (km)
1860
Slope: -.95
.003 .03 .3 330
Imports / GDP (%)
400 1000 5000 20000
Distance (km)
1900
Europe Non-Europe Colonies Linear prediction
Slope: -.75
.003 .03 .3 330
Imports / GDP (%)
400 1000 5000 20000
Distance (km)
1920
Slope: -.51
.003 .03 .3 330
Imports / GDP (%)
400 1000 5000 20000
Distance (km)
1938
Europe Non-Europe Colonies Linear prediction
Slope: -.52
.003 .03 .3 330
Imports / GDP (%)
400 1000 5000 20000
Distance (km)
1950
Slope: -.59
.003 .03 .3 330
Imports / GDP (%)
400 1000 5000 20000
Distance (km)
1990
Slope: -.95
.003 .03 .3 330
Imports / GDP (%)
400 1000 5000 20000
Distance (km)
2010
Both axis in log scale
Europe Non-Europe Colonies Linear prediction
Figure A.17 – Import shares from the Netherlands, by distance
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... The rise in international trade flows and the liberalisation of trade policy in many developing countries is a primary component of globalisation (Edwards 1998). As of 2014, the value of global merchandise exports as a share of gdp was 24.24 per cent, while the statistics for Africa stood at 24.26 per cent (Fouquin and Hugot 2016). ...
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We take up again the famous case of the trade in wheat between the United States and the United Kingdom. This is often used to illustrate the so-called first era of globalization at the end of the nineteenth century. This study, however, finds evidence of transatlantic commodity market integration already during the eighteenth century. Using price data for wheat in America and Britain, our findings support both that price differentials were quite small for many years, and that prices adjusted to the law-of-one-price equilibrium. This process was, however, continuously being interrupted by ‘exogenous’ events, such as trade policy, war and politics. In particular, the French and Napoleonic wars and the subsequent high levels of protection in the UK meant that markets were almost always disintegrated until the repeal of the British Corn Laws in 1846.
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