Information and Exports: Firm-Level Evidence from an Online Platform

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Jun 2020
Lack of information is an important trade barrier. Online platforms connecting firms can reduce this barrier and thereby affect firms exports. We examine whether this is the case by focusing on ConnectAmericas, a free online business platform that, by the end of 2016, connected more than 16,000 firms from almost a hundred countries. In particular, we estimate the impact of using the platform on firms export outcomes exploiting data on firms participation in this platform along with customs data from Peru for the period 2010-2016. In so doing, we apply an instrumental variables approach whereby firms use of the platform is instrumented with information on the distribution of emails announcing its launching by the national trade promotion agency. Consistent with the interpretation of the platform as an information cost-reducing mechanism, our results suggest that ConnectAmericas allowed firms to expand their exports by primarily increasing the number of products they sell abroad and enlarging their buyer base.