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Daniel Trefler


  • Fellow
  • Institutions, Organizations & Growth




Daniel Trefler is an economist whose research focuses on international trade and its relationship to innovation and institutional change.

He has ongoing projects on the impact of international trade on productivity growth and competitiveness, with special reference to Canada, China and the developing world. He also writes extensively on how a country’s legal and contracting environment shapes the types of goods it produces, the way in which its firms organize global production networks (including offshore outsourcing), and the impact this has on employment, wages and inequality.

In addition, Trefler looks at how international trade can fundamentally alter how a society functions. Some countries suffer when exposed to increased internationalization. Others thrive. Why is this? How does international trade affect the relative power of special interest groups, and when is this power used to the benefit of all rather than the few? Does this power strengthen rather than weaken constitutional arrangements, innovation, worker rights, social inclusiveness and economic equality? For example, Trefler has recently studied the impact of international trade on medieval Venetian social structure, the impact of collapsing world sugar prices on the evolution of coercive institutions in the post-slavery Caribbean colonies, and the impact of today’s foreign direct investment into China on the development of intellectual property protections there.

Often, Trefler’s work is as much about fundamental research as it is about the evaluation of Canadian public policy. He works extensively with federal and provincial governments to help design and promote policies for a better Canada.


  • Ohlin Lecturer, Stockholm School of Economics, 2011
  • Noni MacDonald Award, for an article in Paediatrics & Child Health that has positively affected paediatrics, 2010
  • Innis Lecturer, Canadian Economic Association, 2008
  • Canada Research Chair, 2004
  • Rae Prize, Canadian Economic Association Award for Excellence in Research, 2000

Relevant Publications

  • Trefler, D., and D. Puga. "International Trade and Institutional Change: Medieval Venice's Response to Globalization.” Q. J. Econ. 129, no. 2 (May 2014): 753–821.
  • Trefler, D., and N. Nunn. "Incomplete Contracts and the Boundaries of the Multinational Firm.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 94 (October 2013): 330–44.
  • Trefler, D., and M.J. Melitz. "Gains From Trade When Firms Matter.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 26, no. 2 (spring 2012): 91–118.
  • Trefler, D., and J. Sutton. "Deductions from the Export Basket: Capabilities, Wealth and Trade.” NBER Working Papers 16834 (2011).
  • Trefler, Daniel, ed. Offshore Outsourcing: Capitalizing on Lessons Learned. Toronto: Rotman School of Management and Industry Canada, 2010.
  • Lileeva, A., and D. Trefler. "Improved Access to Foreign Markets Raises Plant-Level Productivity for Some Plants." Quarterly Journal of Economics 125 (2009): 1051–1099.

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