Digital connectivity and firm participation in foreign markets: An exporter-based bilateral analysis

This paper studies how bilateral digital connectivity resulting from telecommunications submarine cable (SMC) deployment affects firm participation in export markets. Based on a heterogeneous firm model and using an unbalanced panel of bilateral trade data across 48 countries during the period 1997-2014, we find that an SMC connection between two countries is associated with an increase in the number of bilateral exporters in developed countries, but also with a reduction in the number of bilateral exporters in developing countries. This negative association between bilateral connectivity and firm participation in export markets appears to be stronger in the poorest developing areas: Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The growth in world connectivity spurred by SMCs deployment has therefore had a heterogeneous effect on firm decision to export, pushing more firms from high-income countries to enter export markets, and some incumbent exporters from lower-income countries to exit them.

Centre for Economic Policy Research, Discussion Paper 17318.