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Policy Choice: Theory and Evidence from Commitment via International Trade Agreements

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  • Limão, Nuno
  • Tovar, Patricia

Abstract

Why do governments employ inefficient policies to redistribute income towards special interest groups (SIGs) when more efficient ones are available? To address this puzzle we derive and test predictions for a set of policies where detailed data is available and an efficiency ranking is feasible: tariffs vs. non-tariff barriers (NTBs). In our policy choice model a government bargaining with domestic SIGs can gain by constraining tariffs through international agreements even if this leads to the use of the less efficient NTBs. This generates two key testable predictions (i) there is imperfect policy substitution, i.e. tighter tariff constraints are not fully offset by the higher NTBs they generate and (ii) the decision to commit to constraints depends on the government's bargaining power relative to SIGs. Using detailed data, we confirm that tariff constraints in trade agreements increase the likelihood and restrictiveness of NTBs. We also provide a structural estimate that indicates NTBs are less efficient than the tariffs they imperfectly replace. Moreover, we find parametric and non-parametric evidence that the higher the government bargaining power relative to a SIG the more relaxed the tariff constraint it chooses. This result is stronger for organized industries, which further supports the theory. The main theoretical insights and empirical approach can be applied to other policies to provide additional evidence on inefficient redistribution.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7137.

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Date of creation: Feb 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7137

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Keywords: bargaining; commitment; Inefficient redistribution; lobbies; non-tariff barrier; PTA; tariff; trade; WTO;

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References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Kyle Handley & Nuno Limão, 2012. "Trade and Investment under Policy Uncertainty: Theory and Firm Evidence," NBER Working Papers 17790, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Brou Daniel & Ruta Michele, 2013. "A Commitment Theory of Subsidy Agreements," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 13(1), pages 239-270, May.
  3. Arcand, Jean-Louis & Olarreaga, Marcelo & Zoratto, Laura, 2011. "Weak Governments and Trade Agreements," CEPR Discussion Papers 8595, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Mariano Tommasi & Carlos Scartascini & Ernesto H. Stein, 2010. "Veto Players and Policy Trade-Offs: An Intertemporal Approach to Study the Effects of Political Institutions on Policy," IDB Publications 6787, Inter-American Development Bank.
  5. Peter Egger & Georg Wamser, 2013. "Effects of the Endogenous Scope of Preferentialism on International Goods Trade," CESifo Working Paper Series 4208, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Bown, Chad P. & Karacaovali, Baybars & Tovar, Patricia, 2014. "What do we know about preferential trade agreements and temporary trade barriers ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6898, The World Bank.
  7. Lawley, Chad, 2013. "Protectionism versus risk in screening for invasive species," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 438-451.
  8. Bown, Chad P., 2013. "Trade policy flexibilities and Turkey : tariffs, antidumping, safeguards, and WTO dispute settlement," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6322, The World Bank.
  9. Nuno Limão & Giovanni Maggi, 2013. "Uncertainty and Trade Agreements," NBER Working Papers 18703, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Bown, Chad P., 2014. "Trade policy instruments over time," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6757, The World Bank.
  11. Paolo E. Giordani & Nadia Rocha & Michele Ruta, 2012. "Food Prices and the Multiplier Effect of Export Policy," Working Papers LuissLab 1297, Dipartimento di Economia e Finanza, LUISS Guido Carli.

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