Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1355: The Importance of Business Travel for Trade: Evidence from the Liberalization of the Soviet Airspace

Bengt Söderlund ()
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Bengt Söderlund: Department of Economics, Lund University, and, Postal: Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: The strong negative relationship between geographical distance and trade is not well understood. I use the liberalization of the Soviet airspace to estimate the causal impact of business travel cost on trade. The liberalization radically reduced travel time between Europe and East Asia and was associated with a significant increase in trade. I find that the cost of business travel can account for most of the trade frictions (85.3%) that cause trade to sharply decline with distance. A plausible explanation for these results is that face-to-face interaction through business travel is important for trade, and that transporting people is costly.

Keywords: Trade costs; Air travel; Face-to-face communication

JEL-codes: F14; F15; R40

64 pages, September 22, 2020

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