ECONOMIES OF SCALE, FIRST-MOVER ADVANTAGES, AND THE PATTERN OF TRADE
A second theme in new trade theory is that the pattern of trade we observe in the world economy may be the result of economies of scale and first-mover advantages. First-mover advantages are the economic and strategic advantages that accrue to early entrants into an industry.31 The ability to capture scale economies ahead of later entrants, and thus benefit from a lower cost structure, is an important first-mover advantage. New trade theory argues that for those products where economies of scale are significant and represent a substantial proportion of world demand, the first movers in an industry can gain a scale-based cost advantage that later entrants find almost impossible to match. Thus, the pattern of trade that we observe for such products may reflect first-mover advantages. Countries may dominate in the export of certain goods because economies of scale are important in their production, and because firms located in those countries were the first to capture scale economies, giving them a first-mover advantage.
Advantages accruing to the first to enter a market.
For example, consider the commercial aerospace industry. In aerospace there are substantial scale economies that come from the ability to spread the fixed costs of developing a new jet aircraft over a large number of sales. It has cost Airbus Industrie some $15 billion to develop its new super-jumbo jet, the 550-seat A380. To recoup those costs and break even, Airbus will have to sell at least 250 A380 planes. If Airbus can sell more than 350 A380 planes, it will apparently be a profitable venture. Total demand over the next 20 years for this class of aircraft is estimated to be between 400 and 600 units. Thus, the global market can probably profitably support only one producer of jet aircraft in the super-jumbo category. It follows that the European Union might come to dominate in the export of very large jet aircraft, primarily because a European-based firm, Airbus, was the first to produce a super-jumbo jet aircraft and realize scale economies. Other potential producers, such as Boeing, might be shut out of the market because they will lack the scale economies that Airbus will enjoy. By pioneering this market category, Airbus may have captured a first-mover advantage based on scale economies that will be difficult for rivals to match, and that will result in the European Union becoming the leading exporter of very large jet aircraft. (Boeing does not believe the market to be large enough to even profitably support one producer, hence its decision not to build a similar aircraft, and instead focus on its super efficient 787.)