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Finance professor recognized for trade research

| Friday, February 6, 2015

The International Economics and Finance Society (IEFS) recently elected Notre Dame professor of finance Jeffrey Bergstrand as president to honor his commitment and research work in international trade.

Bergstrand is also the associate dean of graduate programs in the Mendoza College of Business and has a concurrent appointment in the Department of Economics. He has been at Notre Dame since 1986.

“IEFS is a society of mostly academic economists but also includes some in the government and the private sector who explore research and policy,” Bergstrand said.

Bergstrand said he became involved with IEFS approximately 20 years ago while he was an associate editor for the Review of International Economics. Although IEFS does not publish research, it has a close relationship the Review of International Economics and the Review of Development Economics, which both do.

The IEFS is an associate member of the Allied Social Science Association, which hosts annual conferences for researchers from various organizations to present their work and collaborate. The IEFS has three leadership positions: president, executive secretary and treasurer. Bergstrand said his role as president will involve coordinating annual meetings on a national level and organizing more regional events.

Bergstrand said that research associated with the IEFS spans a range of subfields and topics from international trade and macroeconomics, to financial and investment trends.

“I’ve been studying international trade flows and publishing in there for over 30 years,” Bergstrand said.

Bergstrand said that his appointment as president was a way to recognize his contributions in the field, particularly his work on the gravity equation.

“There is a statistical tool generally referred to as the gravity equation in international trade, and it borrowed the name from Newton’s law because the trade flows between countries can be very well explained by the economic sizes of the countries as well as the distance between them,” Bergstrand said.

According to Bergstrand, the gravity equation first came into use during the 1960s to explain trade flows, but it initially lacked rigorous statistical underpinnings.

“I worked on it in the 1970s with my dissertation and published several papers based on it that helped provide an economic rationale for this relationship between trade flows between countries, their economic size and similarity, and the distance,” Bergstrand said.

Bergstrand said his work with the gravity equation has allowed economists and researchers to study all kinds of trade impediments or factors that help trade. He said free trade agreements and tariff rates asre traditional examples, but  even political scientists have used the theory to examine the relationship between conflicts, political systems and trade. Bergstrand said he also studies foreign direct investment and portfolio investment flows through the prism of the gravity equation.

Bergstrand said these topics are crucial for coming up with ways to solve economics problems such as how to raise standards of living.

“It’s very helpful to understand the impact of trade and investment policies on trade flows,” Bergstrand said.





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