Integration in the Absence of Institutions: China-North Korea Cross-Border Exchange

Stephan Haggard (PIIE), Jennifer Lee (PIIE) and Marcus Noland (PIIE)
Working Paper
11-13
August 2011

Theory tells us that weak rule of law and institutions deter cross-border integration, deter investment relative to trade, and inhibit trade finance. Drawing on a survey of more than 300 Chinese enterprises that are doing or have done business in North Korea, the authors consider how informal institutions have addressed these problems in a setting in which rule of law and institutions are particularly weak. Given the apparent reliance on hedging strategies, the rapid growth in exchange witnessed in recent years may prove self-limiting, as the effectiveness of informal institutions erodes and the risk premium rises. Institutional improvement could have significant welfare implications, affecting the volume, composition, and financial terms of cross-border exchange.