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European Economy: The Puzzle of the Missing Greek Exports

Böwer, U., Michou, V. & Ungerer, C. (2014) “European Economy: The Puzzle of the Missing Greek Exports“, Economic Papers 518, European Commission, Ιούνιος 2014.


Why is Greece such a surprisingly closed economy? We employ a gravity model of trade to explain the appallingly poor export performance of Greece and argue that weak institutional quality accounts for a large part of this shortfall. Using a rich dataset of bilateral value-added exports of goods and services of 39 exporters and 56 importers for 18 sectors, we first estimate that Greece exports ⅓ less than what regular international trade patterns would predict on basis of Greek GDP, the size of its trading partners and geographical distance. This ranks Greece at the 31st position out of 39 export countries in the competitiveness ranking we construct based on our regressions. The most affected sectors include electrical equipment and machinery while transport, tourism and agriculture perform relatively favourable. We then augment our model with various measures of institutional quality and find that weak institutions can explain much of the missing Greek exports puzzle. We estimate that structural reforms improving the Greek institutional framework to the EU/OECD average level would close between ½ and ¾ of the Greek export gap. These findings suggest that, while Greece has already achieved major improvements in cost competitiveness since the start of the Greek adjustment programme, structural reforms must also address non-cost competitiveness factors, such as the underlying institutional deficits, to unlock Greece’s export growth potential.


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