The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Chris Papageorgiou, Christian Henn, and Theo Eicher
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND
Trade theories covering Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) are as diverse as the literature in search of their empirical support. To account for the model uncertainty that surrounds the validity of the competing PTA theories, we introduce Bayesian Model Averaging (BMA) to the PTA literature. BMA minimizes the sum of Type I and Type II error, the mean squared error, and generates predictive distributions with optimal predictive performance. Once model uncertainty is addressed as part of the empirical strategy, we report clear evidence of Trade Creation, Trade Diversion, and Open Bloc effects. After controlling for natural trading partner effects, Trade Creation is weaker - except for the EU. To calculate the actual effects of PTAs on trade flows we show that the analysis must be comprehensive: it must control for Trade Creation and Diversion as well as all possible PTAs. Several prominent control variables are also shown to be robustly related to Trade Creation; they relate to factor endowments and economic policy.