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Trade Liberalization in Developing Economies: Modest Benefits but Problems with Productivity Growth, Macro Prices, and Income Distribution


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    Arguments regarding trade and other forms of liberalization in developing countries are reviewed. Microeconomically, the standard case for liberalization is dubious under increasing returns to scale and when firms can invest directly in productivity enhancement. Distributional effects of commercial policy changes can be regressive and large, but the "rents" they generate can serve as a basis for effective policy intervention contingent on firms' performance. Macroeconomically, the case of liberalization rests on Say's Law, which is not always enforced. It is complicated by the facts that recent combined current and capital market liberalizations have been associated with strong exchange rates and high interest rates, and that output and productivity growth have positive mutual feedbacks which liberalization may well suppress. All these effects can only be sorted out by institutional and historical analysis at the country level, as opposed to cross-country regressions or computable general equilibrium models with causal structures favoring trade liberalization already built in.

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    Paper provided by Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA), The New School in its series SCEPA working paper series. SCEPA's main areas of research are macroeconomic policy, inequality and poverty, and globalization. with number 1998-05.

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    Length: 42 pages
    Date of creation: Mar 1998
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:epa:cepawp:1998-05

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    Keywords: liberalization; productivity growth; income distribution;


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    Cited by:
    1. Suranjana Nabar-Bhaduri, 2009. "What Lies Beneath: A Case For Disaggregated Analysis In Evaluating Stuctural Policy Shifts," Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, University of Utah, University of Utah, Department of Economics 2009_12, University of Utah, Department of Economics.
    2. Rob Vos, 2007. "What we do and don’t know about trade liberalization and poverty reduction," Working Papers, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs 50, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.


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