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Globalization is posing major challenges to the southern euro area (SEA-5) countries2—new products of better quality can be an alternative to increase their competitiveness. In this context, the main finding of this chapter is that product quality has not shown a marked improvement over the last decade. This slow progress appears associated with a loss of market share.

Imports increase consumer choices, exert competitive pressures on domestic producers, and facilitate industrial restructuring. In studies of cross-country differences in external performance, imports have drawn considerably less attention than exports, and typically have been assigned a passive role. For example, Allard, et al (2005) found imports to be largely determined by final demand while competitiveness has been playing a minor role. However, the benefits of imports are well known: they increase the supply of goods and services available to meet final demand, enable a national economy to bring forward consumption and investment, offer an enlarged product variety, and facilitate the global division of labor. This chapter looks at the role of imports in restructuring the economies of the five southern euro area (SEA-5) countries—France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain—and, for the purpose of comparison, the euro area average and Germany.

International Monetary Fund

In recent years, the IMF has released a growing number of reports and other documents covering economic and financial developments and trends in member countries. Each report, prepared by a staff team after discussions with government officials, is published at the option of the member country.

International Monetary Fund

In recent years, the IMF has released a growing number of reports and other documents covering economic and financial developments and trends in member countries. Each report, prepared by a staff team after discussions with government officials, is published at the option of the member country.

International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper assesses Cyprus’s export competitiveness and understands factors that could explain export developments, particularly in the services sector. Although Cyprus has been able to leverage its strategic location to diversity its markets for goods exports, as a small island economy, opportunities for diversifying its products mix is more limited. Services exports have performed better in the post-crisis period buoyed by the recovery in Europe and the impact of technological advances on global Information and Communication Technologies-enabled trade. Policies to support greater market diversification, enhance competition and efficiency and strengthen technological adoption would help exports growth. Studies have established the relationship between price and cost competitiveness with trade performance. Cyprus has performed reasonably well with strong service exports over the past few years, aided by improvements in cost competitiveness and a recovery in the European export markets. Policymakers should exploit opportunities brought by the digital transformation while addressing the accompanied risks.
Mr. Ashoka Mody, Ms. Deniz O Igan, and Ms. Stefania Fabrizio
Despite the appreciation of the exchange rate, the eight Central and Eastern European countries (the CEE-8) that entered the European Union in May 2004 have achieved a decade of impressive export growth, expanding significantly their shares of world markets. Does this mean that the real exchange rate is irrelevant? If not, what other factors compensated for the appreciation to explain the apparently strong competitiveness of these economies? And will these favorable factors continue to power export growth? This paper places in international context the achievements of the CEE-8 and helps more broadly to identify the determinants of international competitiveness. Building from data at the six-digit level of disaggregation, it shows that the CEE-8 made an impressive shift in product quality and in the technological intensity of exports, and that these shifts associated with the structural transformation were also associated with increased market share. The analysis strongly suggests that, when trading in international markets, countries benefit from higher product quality. However, while the structural transformation achieved was valuable in raising market shares, the easy gains from this process may be over.
Mr. Andrew J Tiffin
In Italy, price-based competitiveness measures are not always an accurate predictor of trade outcomes. This paper offers a more comprehensive assessment of Italian competitiveness, focusing on the role of innovation and the evolution of Italy’s export market share. Overall, Italy maintains a high-quality export mix, and the adaptability of small-scale specialized firms is still a source of strength. But, small firm size is becoming less of an asset, and even the most innovative sectors are weighed down by the structural barriers that have depressed productivity more broadly. Italy’s future competitiveness will depend on full implementation of a comprehensive structural-reform agenda.
Mr. Alberto Chong and Ms. Luisa Zanforlin
This paper extends Grossman and Helpman’s seminal work (1991), and presents an endogenous growth model where innovations created in a high-tech sector may be assimilated or adapted by a low-tech sector. Applying a simple Heckscher-Ohlin framework, the effects of technological diffusion are found to allow a country relatively scarce in human capital to benefit from nondecreasing rates of growth through its low-tech sector. The model is tested by using a dynamic panel data approach (Arellano and Bover, 1995). Results are consistent with the predictions of the model and robust to a broad range of definitions of technological intensity.
Ms. Dalia S Hakura and Ms. Florence Jaumotte
Research shows that international trade is an important channel for the transfer of technology. Building on this evidence, this paper examines the effects of inter- and intraindustry trade on technology transfer. The paper develops and tests the hypothesis that intraindustry trade stimulates more technology transfer than interindustry trade because countries are likely to absorb foreign technologies more easily when their imports are from the same sectors as their production and export sectors. The results of empirical tests for 87 countries during 1970–93 support this hypothesis.
Ms. Dalia S Hakura
While the Heckscher-Ohlin-Vanek (HOV) theorem has been a dominant paradigm in trade theory, the empirical evidence to support it has been weak. This paper develops a modified HOV model that allows technologies to differ across countries. The revised model significantly improves the theory’s accuracy in predicting trade flows in contrast to the traditional model. The paper also illustrates that, since countries have different technologies, measures of factor contents of trade in final goods using direct and domestically produced indirect input requirements are more accurate and yield more consistent predictions than do traditional measures.