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Assess an established or original international economic theory based on internal evidence and external criteria using contemporary research. 

Your assignment is to assess an established economic theory or economic policy or treaty that affects more than one country.

The Theory of Comparative Advantage

The focus of this theory is based on the comparing the advantages of one factor of production between two countries (Baiman, 2017).  Comparative advantage is a term in economics that refers to the ability to produce goods and services at a reduced opportunity cost than other trade partners. The advantage of this comparative advantage is that it enables companies produce goods and services at a lower cost hence helping it sell to customers at a lower price. This will help the company have larger market share than its competitors because of greater sales it makes. In this case, comparative advantage is used to compare the type of trade that exists between the United States and the Nation of Nigeria. The trade we put a lot of concentration are the manufacturing industries. A panel data approach of 20 industries that do manufacturing was used to test the model of comparative advantage. Stationary panel technique and both the one-way and two-way error components were used to perform estimations to the equations (Brim, 2017). The progress from cross-sectional estimation to panel data technique is advantageous because there will be improvement in the efficiency of the estimation parameters.

Globalization which is a key term used in reference to the economies of the current world getting connected  or in other words coming together in the area of international trade. in a more clear way, globalizations means the economies of the world entering into free trade among each other (Low, 2016). With reference to this, we get to see that the ability of an economy to enter the international trade community depends on the level at which this economy normally gets involved in international trade as it is evident in its balance of payment. The techniques of production are facilitated by the economy’s openness and trade increase. In this case, when the number of goods sold out of the country increases, then the bottlenecks of foreign exchange becomes weak (Cuñat & Melitz, 2012).

For some years now the United States of America has been one of the biggest trade partners with the nation of Nigeria. Over some time now, it has been witnessed that the trade between the two countries has been on an increase (Sun, Peng, Ren & Yan, 2012). This is because exports from Nigeria that include cocoa, rubber, antiques and food waste has been on increase as compared to any other country in the west Africa. Same to the United States, Export Exports to the U.S has increase rapidly in the form of wheat, vehicles, machinery, petroleum products, civilian and private aircrafts, and last but not the least plastics over the past few years than any other country in the West Africa (Watson, 2017). The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) together with the bilateral co-operation forum between the two countries has been boosting trade between the two countries. AGOA has been able to promote and grow trade between the two countries because it provides duty-free exports to the U.S.

Globalization and Trade

The Nigerian economy has been able to acquire certain characteristics that make it be able to compete effectively in the global market. Among them are; well established economy, manufacturing sector that is diversified etc (Nunn & Trefler, 2014).

The goal of writing this paper is to check whether this theory of comparative advantage is applicable to South Africa as it has been specified. The next thing is to check if the theory has been ascertained by the differences in the production of the differences in the cost of labour (Vis, 2012). From there, the rest of the paper is arranged as follows; the second part presents the foundation of the theory, the third section is about the findings based on the comparative advantages theory and the fourth section talks about the framework and methods used in this paper to describe data that is used. The fifth section does the analysis of the results of the estimations made and diagnose tests made in the paper are presented and finally we have the conclusion of the paper.

This as a free trade theory put forward by Adam Smith. According to Adam Smith, an inquiry in nature and what causes Nations wealth has contributed a lot into the international trade literature the work also states that having free restrictions in trade leads to free trade in and as a result competition at home and in other countries (Brim, 2017). Being one of the philosophers who led to the fall of the school of mercantilists, the theory of free trade was based on the Mercantilists critical doctrines. His arguments were that no economy can produce all of what it needs and said that all the countries can be beneficiaries of each other if each one produces a certain type of goods (Shohibul, 2013).

The theory of absolute advantage by Adam Smith was followed by the theory of comparative advantage by Ricardo. Among the many points said by Ricardo is that specialization by a country in the production of goods which have highest advantage will be of the greatest benefit. In such a case there will be trade among the countries and each country will benefit from comparative advantage. Thus countries will export goods to where their comparative advantages are (Andersson et al, 2012).

Ricardo says that both countries will benefit from the trade if there is difference in the opportunity cost of production. He also added that no trade can occur if the two countries have the same opportunity cost of production (Levchenko, & Zhang, 2016). The major assumptions of Ricardian theory are; there only exists two countries, two goods, constant cost, one factor of production and can only be practiced in the world of perfect competition.

Trade Between the United States and Nigeria

The strength of this theory that makes it more relevant in analyzing trade patterns is the assuming of technological differences across the countries (Baiman, 2017) . Ricardo also says that the technological strength of one country over the other can be a source of comparative advantage and this is what makes Ricardo’s comparative advantage theory greater than other theories.

Putting aside all other assumptions underlining trade theories, the foundation of any theory mostly begins with the classical Ricardian theory of comparative advantage. The serious emphasis placed on the assumptions that technology differs across counties is a contribution in the field of international trade (Keuschnigg, 2012). The theory has been built on the fact that trade patterns are determined on the assumptions of relative productivity. The examination that was made by Solacha in the year 1991 was the relationship that exists among the components of unit labour, wages and productivity of the U.S trade flows in the industries of manufacture. He also got to find that differences in productivity of labour in the industries that do manufacturing are of great advantage in determining patterns of trade in the U.S.

Golub is the one who performed the tests of time-series and cross sectional of the Ricardian model based on the behavior of the trade balances. He found that the cost of labour per unit for U.S and Japan explains the changes that occur in sectoral trade balances which comply with the Ricardian theory. He further said that research should be done to finish some of the shortcomings of the data used in the paper (Anheier & Seibel, 2013).

The Ricardian model for the U.S trade was assessed by Golud and Hsieh in the 2000 and performed the professional seemingly Unrelated Regression of the flows of the sectoral trade on relative productivity of labour and unit of labour cost. Their findings give a strong support on the Ricardian theory that despite its simplicity, its performance continues doing very well (Bahar, Hausmann & Hidalgo, 2014). Doing further investigation of export shares and relative cost of labour were carried out in various places such as Carlin, Glyn and Van Renen and what they found out was strong correspond to the theoretical function of the Ricardian model. It was also found out that there were other variations such as technology, institutional factors that can influence the performance of exports.

Based on the empirical analysis above, few tests of the same for the Ricardian theory have been carried out in Nigeria and papers have been written and presented based on the performance of exports in the same country (Deardorff, 2014). The difference is that they are not testing weather Ricardian theory holds in Nigeria. Regardless of the same, there are some that have been carried out and are as stated below.

Characteristics of the Nigerian Economy

Empirical test on the Nigeria’s exports was carried out based on the Ricardian model. The focus was made on the changes that occurred to cost competitiveness at sectoral level. Comparison was made across many countries and found out that Nigeria is not more cost competitive with developing countries but for developed countries cost competition was high. In the estimations to determine long-run relationship between the cost of labour and performance of the exports, they applied the use of dynamic panel data analysis (Edoumiekumo & Opukri, 2013).

Another study contacted found out that trade competitiveness in the manufacturing industries was determined by the cost of labour per unit of output. This study gave evidence on the Ricardian theory of comparative advantage (Ishchukova & Smutka, 2013). Contrary to the findings, it was also found that the relative wages were not that convincing to support the Ricardian theory of comparative advantage.

This paper uses the framework of Golu and Hseih (2000). The two presented this framework which is based on international comparison of unit labour cost for international competitiveness analysis (Brack, 2017). The same framework is the one used to achieve its usefulness in this case Nigeria. The framework is as below.

With the assumption of existence of only two countries,  in this case A and B represented as both domestic and foreign countries respectively.

ai represented as labour requirements is as shown

ai = Li

In this case Q is the value addition for i, refers to the labour employment for i .the labour cost per unit of output is the unit labour cost.

X = ai Wi

Y = ai*Wi*

(ai) is the unit of requirement and also the inverse of marginal productivity (1 ai), and with respect to variations in Li can be assumed to be constant.

The two Ricardian assumptions of two countries are strictly followed by this framework. Since the number of industries to be investigated is more than two, the assumptions of two goods will be relaxed (Levchenko, & Zhang, 2016). What this means is that it is impossible to maintain strong Ricardian theorem which states that the factors of production are the ones that determine the trade patterns. Thus the level of competition between industries i in the two countries is X and Y also will be dependent on the wages (iw) and the exchange rates between the two countries. The above two variables determine the relative labour cost that serves as the factors that drives the patterns of trade.

Framework and Methodology

Among the major assumptions underlying Ricardian theory as a factor of production is labour. Therefore in the average unit labour cost of production for country X and Y will be as illustrated by the equations 2(a) and equations 2(b). Thus, to have a common currency, the ULC (unit labour cost) in the two countries, equation 2(b) is multiplied by the bilateral exchange rate to express it in domestic currency (Hendrischke, 2013).

The data that is needed to be used in all the above specifications is obtained from the trade data websites. The data obtained from the UNIDO industrial Statistics includes Labour employment, value added, and wage data. The bilateral exchange rates were obtained from the Reserve bank of Nigeria database (Sunley, & Martin, 2017). The calculation of the relative export variable was done from finding the ratio of Nigeria export to Nigerians imports to and from the U.S. All the calculations of relative wages, relative unit labour cost and relative productivity was calculated for the ratio of Nigeria to United States.

During the entire process, it was unnecessary to include all the industries. Thus the industries that have not exceeded one-third of their production in both countries were not included in the estimations (Brack, 2017). The explanation behind all this is that these industries are not the representation of the industries as a whole to the whole country. Thus, after carrying out examination on the major industries in Nigeria the study covered only 25 industries in Nigeria. There are some of the industries that lacked data i.e. data was unavailable and therefore lead to their elimination from the study. Although there was data unavailability for some of the industries, this didn’t affect much the final results because there have been minimal changes over the period (Schneider & Paunescu, 2012).

The usage of bilateral export ratios follows the original formulation of Ricardian theory. MacDougall (1951) and Stern (1962) specifications made earlier have been used total exort ratios in their studies on the US-UK trade pattern. Their intention was to analyze the relationship between the total export ration and labour productivity ratio and unit labour cost ratio (Laursen, 2015). The trade comparison that was made b Balassa (1963) compared the American exports and the British exports and found out that tariffs between the two countries influenced trade between them. Balassa however abandons trade between two countries and thus uses the total export ratio to a third market. Golub and Hseih have criticized this and used bilateral trade flows in testing of Ricardian theory. They found out that the results were consistent to the Ricardian theory.

Results and Analysis

The data used was tested for Im, Shin and Pesaran (IPS) (2012) unit rooted test. Each of the units are tested first with the assumptions of a constant but without trend, and then for a second time tested for a constant and a trend.  We get to realize that the Relative Labour cost (RLC) and Relative Productivity (RelProd) is trend stationary, but when stationary, they are non-constant, no trend and constant and trend.

The trade pattern between the United Stated and the nation of Nigeria has been affected by the manner in which productivity differs. The one-way error component model shows that the output per worker in Nigeria for over the years has contributed in the exports of manufacturing products to the U.S. In other terms, when Nigeria-U.S. productivity increases by one percent, it leads to approximately o.5 percent export share increase (Bils, Chang & Kim, 2012). There is existence of variation which about 97 percent. This variation is caused by difference in productivity. This behavior is in conformity with earlier empirical tests. It is evident that the labour productivity in Nigeria is playing a significant role in the explanation of pattern trade with the U.S. The results from the two-way error component model reveal similarity and there is no change in the relationship that exists between the two variables. The coefficient that is estimated is double the coefficient of the one way error component model (Jang & Hyun, 2012).

The revelation that is exists is that increased productivity in one percent will lead to 1.2 percent increase in the ratio of export. What might cause this is as a result of the time dimension incorporated in the model.


The estimates that were done on this paper about the Ricardian theory of comparative advantage tried just to extend Golub’s (2000) framework. The differences in productivity and wage differentials were the main determiner of trade patterns between the United States and Nigeria. Also analysis by the use of differences in the unit labour costs determined trade patterns between the two countries. The paper made the use of only trade values instead of using trade volumes. The paper also makes the assumptions that there were no cost of transporting goods and other barriers of trade such as taxations. The reason for assuming inexistence of such expenses is because inclusion of this may result into big differences between the two countries in terms of their list of exports.

Diagnostic Tests

Basing my argument on the estimated results, it is evident that production by labour is playing a big role in the explanation of trade with the United States (Laursen, (2015). Therefore an improvement in labour in the country of Nigeria is necessary for increased production because it will lead to the growth of its exports in the United States. The determination and the estimation of the relative cost of labour have been found to be the same as that of the relative productivity. What this means is that the two variables play a significant role in the explanation of the export ratio, but in a different direction.

When it comes to decomposition of the relative unit labour cost to relative wages and relative production, we get to realize that relative productivity is the main determinant of the trade rather than relative wages. This is because the wage differences didn’t make any improvements in the explanation of trade between Nigeria and the United States. In support of this findings, Taussig (1921:481) defending the Ricardian theory made an expression of his opinion which stated that wages and capital cost are not enough to make certain changes to the trade flow as determined by the relative differences in productivity. Thus from this paper, the major finding are that the relative cost of labour unit and relative productivity are the major trade pattern determiners in the nation of Nigeria and the United States. To conclude, the researches that can be made in the future should focus on the implication of policy in enhancing the potential of these important sectors.


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