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CEP discussion paper
China's Pure Exporter Subsidies
Fabrice Defever and Alejandro Riaño
December 2012
Paper No' CEPDP1182:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: F12; F13; O47

Tags: trade policy; export subsidies; heterogeneous firms; china

One third of Chinese exporters sell more than ninety percent of their production abroad. We argue that this distinctive pattern is attributable to a wide range of subsidies that provide incentives to these “pure exporters”. We propose a heterogeneous firm model in which firms exporting all their output receive an ad-valorem sales subsidy. Using microdata on manufacturing firms matched with custom transactions for the years 2000-2006, we measure sizable differences in productivity and paid taxes between pure exporters and domestic firms and between pure and regular exporters, in line with the predictions of our model. Embedding a pure-exporter subsidy in a two-country general equilibrium environment, we show that this instrument is worse from a welfare standpoint than a standard export subsidy, partly because it increases protection of the domestic market. A counterfactual analysis suggests that eliminating these subsidies would result in a welfare gain for China comparable to halving its trade costs.