Understanding foreign connections: How Myanmar's top exporters find buyers

Project Firms

Since 2010, Myanmar has implemented political and economic reforms aimed at spurring growth and increasing the country’s participation in the global economy. Despite these reforms and the removal of international trade sanctions, Myanmar’s exports remain low and the trade deficit is widening. Part of the explanation for this poor performance lies in the fact that Myanmar exporters face difficulties in finding foreign buyers for their products.

Myanmar exports are highly concentrated in a few companies. The 100 largest exporters account for about 70 percent of the country’s exports. Myanmartherefore  relies on a handful of companies to export its products. How do these big players find foreign buyers and why are they so efficient at promoting their products abroad?  This project aims to address these questions by surveying Myanmar’s Top 100 exporters. The study will gather both qualitative evidence on the ways through which these exporters find foreign buyers and quantitative evidence on their efficiency at finding buyers. It will be carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce Trade Promotion Department.

How firms connect with export markets and the barriers that prevent them from doing so has always been a central question to understanding how a country can benefit from export-led growth. A recent trend in the trade literature has focused on the granularity of exports (the top exporters account for most of a country’s exports) and its consequences for thinking about comparative advantage. This study will fill a gap between this literature and the literature on exporter dynamics by investigating if and how matching mechanisms between exporters and importers can explain the granularity of exports.

Exporters in the natural resources sector will not be included in the study as these sectors are mostly under the control of a state monopolies (e.g. jade and gas). The surveys will instead focus on agricultural products or goods with small value added (such as vegetables, fishery products, rubber etc.) that require little capital to operate and have the most export potential for the country.