China Railway Express is an important step of interconnection under the Belt and Road initiative, which has built a large international trade logistics channel linking the Eurasian Economic Circle. As a key breakthrough for the " coastalization” of inland regions, can CR-express promote the trade growth of inland regions, especially inland free trade zones? To what extent has trade growth been improved? What is the influence mechanism of CR-express on trade growth in inland regions? What is the impact of CR-express on investment and industrial distribution in inland regions, and how will it affect trade growth? Are there differences in trade growth among different locations, such as inland free trade zones, transport channels, and source nodes? How can CR-express construction further promote trade growth in inland regions? These urgent problems have important practical significance for grasping the effect and transmission mechanism of CR-express construction on trade growth in inland regions, and can also provide enlightenment to further develop China’s opening up and narrow the regional development gap.
This paper analyzes the effect and mechanism of international logistics transport vehicle on regional trade growth. By using the panel data of economy and trade in the central and western inland regions from 2008 to 2017, and the method of PSM-DID, this paper makes an empirical study on the relationship between CR-express and trade growth in inland regions, and explores the internal mechanism of CR-express on trade growth from the perspectives of transport costs and transaction costs. It further analyzes the impact of the opening of CR-express on investment and industrial distribution in inland regions, and examines the regional heterogeneity of CR-express on trade growth in inland free trade zones, source nodes, and transport channels. Important conclusions of this paper are as follows: Firstly, the opening of CR-express has significantly promoted the trade growth in inland regions, especially the regions opening CR-express. The trade growth effect is mainly reflected in the significant increase of exports, and this effect presents the periodic dynamic characteristics which is shown as a " U”-shaped curve. Secondly, the opening of CR-express will help to reduce transport costs（shorter transport time）and transaction costs（government subsidies）. These two cost savings enhance the attractiveness and cost competitive advantage of CR-express, which is a new mode of international trade logistics transportation, and helps to promote trade growth in inland regions. Thirdly, the opening of CR-express has enhanced the attraction of inland regions for foreign investment, encouraged domestic enterprises to invest, promoted the transfer and receiving of industries among regions, played a catalytic role in the adjustment of the local industrial structure and the optimization of the industrial layout, brought about the transformation and upgrading of industries and trade, and provided endogenous impetus for the trade growth in inland regions. Finally, the analysis of location heterogeneity shows that the opening of CR-express has a greater impact on the trade level of inland free trade zones, source nodes and transport channels, and the trade hub effect of inland free trade zones is significant. CR-express strengthens the trade resource agglomeration function of inland free trade zones, and enlarges the siphon effect of source nodes and the radiation effect of transport channels.