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The Effects of International Politics on Oil-Exporting Developing Countries

Discussion Papers


by Mila Kashcheeva and Kevin K. Tsui
March 2014


International politics affects oil trade. But does it affect the oil-exporting developing countries more? We construct a firm-level dataset for all U.S. oil-importing companies over 1986-2008 to examine how these firms respond to changes in “political distance” between the U.S. and her trading partners, measured by divergence in their UN General Assembly voting patterns. Consistent with previous macro evidence, we first show that individual firms diversify their oil imports politically, even after controlling for unobserved firm heterogeneity. We conjecture that the political pattern of oil imports from these individual firms is driven by hold-up risks, because oil trade is often associated with backward vertical FDI. To the extent that developing countries have higher hold-up risks because of their weaker institutions, the political effect on oil trade should be more significant in the developing world. We find that oil import decisions are indeed more elastic when firms import from developing countries, although the reverse is true in the short run. Our results suggest that international politics can affect oil revenue and hence long-term development in the developing world.

Keywords: international politics, FDI-based imports, hold-up risk, energy security
JEL classification: F13, F51, F59, Q34

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