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Daniel Trefler Economist

Daniel Trefler’s research focuses on international trade and its relationship to innovation and institutional change. He has on-going 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 works on the ways in which 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 (1) the impact of international trade on medieval Venetian social structure, (2) the impact of collapsing world sugar prices on the evolution of coercive institutions in the post-slavery Caribbean colonies, and (3) the impact of today’s foreign direct investment into China on the development of intellectual property protections there.

Trefler’s work is often 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 Lectures, Stockholm School of Economics, 2011.

Noni MacDonald Award; This annual award recognizes an author whose article in Paediatrics & Child Health has positively affected paediatrics, such as by raising awareness of an issue, presenting new scientific research, or instigating or potentially instigating change., 2010.

Innis Lecture, Canadian Economic Association award “in recognition of his/her contribution to economics in the broad sense”, 2008.

Canada Research Chair, 2004.

Rae Prize, Canadian Economic Association Award for Excellence in Research, 2000.

Relevant Publications

D. Trefler and J. Sutton, "Deductions from the Export Basket: Capabilities, Wealth and Trade,” J. Polit. Econ., Forthcoming.

D. Trefler and D. Puga, "International Trade and Institutional Change: Medieval Venice's Response to Globalization”, Q. J. Econ., vol. 129, no. 2, pp. 753–821, May 2014.

D. Trefler and N. Nunn, "Incomplete Contracts and the Boundaries of the Multinational Firm,” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, vol. 94, pp. 330–344, Oct. 2013.

D. Trefler and M. J. Melitz, "Gains From Trade When Firms Matter,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 91–118, Spring 2012.

A. Lileeva and D.Trefler, "Improved Access to Foreign Markets Raises Plant-Level Productivity for Some Plants," Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 125, pp. 1051-1099, 2009.


Offshore Outsourcing: Capitalizing on Lessons Learned, edited by Daniel Trefler. Toronto: Rotman School of Management and Industry Canada, 2010.



Senior Fellow Institutions, Organizations & Growth


University of TorontoRotman School of Management


PhD (Economics) University of California at Los Angeles



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