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Political limits on the World Oil Trade: Firm-level Evidence from US firms

Discussion Papers


March 2013


International politics affect trade patterns, especially for firms in extractive industries. We construct the firm-level dataset for the U.S. oil-importing companies over 1986-2010 to test whether the state of international relations with the trading partners of the U.S. affect importing behavior of the U.S. firms. To measure “political distance” between the U.S. and her trading partners we use voting records for the UN General Assembly. We find that the U.S. firms, in fact, import significantly less oil from the political opponents of the U.S. Our conjecture is that the decrease in oil imports is mainly driven by large, vertically-integrated U.S. firms that engage in foreign direct investment (FDI) overseas.

Keywords: oil imports, political distance, FDI
JEL classification: F14, F51, Q34

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