Odyssey in International Markets: An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Export Promotion in Latin America and the Caribbean

Jan 2010
Despite progress in communication technologies, lack of information still severely handicaps companies seeking to operate in international markets. Furthermore, the investments that these companies must make to gather the information required to trade with foreign markets may yield reduced returns and may consequently be low from a social point of view as third parties may derive benefits from this same information. Thus, lack of information may negatively affect trade, and thereby productivity and economic growth. For these reasons, firms carrying out export projects may require support to overcome information barriers. This is precisely the service that export promotion organizations provide. But, there is little evidence on how well these organizations perform this task. Export promotion is costly, and the resources used might be better employed elsewhere. In order to ascertain that these resources are, in fact, being well invested, it must be first determined whether the policy initiatives they finance have an impact on those variables that are supposed to affect, in this case, exports. Making this determination is the aim of this report. This study first makes a comprehensive analysis of export promotion organizations in some three dozens of countries and regions; and second, it provides robust evaluations, using state-of-the-art econometrics and original data sets purposely compiled, of the impacts that policies have had on export outcomes of countries and firms. Findings reported in this study suggest that trade promotion has been effective in facilitating export expansion, especially along the extensive margin. At the same time, the report points the need for further research to gain deeper insights into its relative merits.