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International Trade in Used Durable Goods: The Environmental Consequences of NAFTA

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  • Lucas W. Davis
  • Matthew E. Kahn

Abstract

Previous studies of trade and the environment overwhelmingly focus on how trade affects where goods are produced. However, trade also affects where goods are consumed. In this paper we describe a model of trade with durable goods and non-homothetic preferences. In autarky, low-quality (used) goods are relatively inexpensive in high-income countries and free trade causes these goods to be exported to low-income countries. We then evaluate the environmental consequences of this pattern of trade using evidence from the North American Free Trade Agreement. Since trade restrictions were eliminated for used cars in 2005, over 2.5 million used cars have been exported from the United States to Mexico. Using a unique, vehicle-level dataset, we find that traded vehicles are dirtier than the stock of vehicles in the United States and cleaner than the stock in Mexico, so trade leads average vehicle emissions to decrease in both countries. Total greenhouse gas emissions increase, primarily because trade gives new life to vehicles that otherwise would have been scrapped.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14565.

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Date of creation: Dec 2008
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Publication status: published as American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2010, 2(4), 58-82.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14565

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  1. Susanna Esteban & Matthew Shum, 2007. "Durable-goods oligopoly with secondary markets: the case of automobiles," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 38(2), pages 332-354, 06.
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  6. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 1998. "Does Air Quality Matter? Evidence from the Housing Market," NBER Working Papers 6826, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. McAusland, Carol, 2008. "Trade, politics, and the environment: Tailpipe vs. smokestack," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 52-71, January.
  8. Danilo Pelletiere & Kenneth A. Reinert, 2004. "Used automobile protection and trade: Gravity and ordered probit analysis," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 29(4), pages 737-751, December.
  9. Gruenspecht, Howard K, 1982. "Differentiated Regulation: The Case of Auto Emissions Standards," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(2), pages 328-31, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Matthew A. Cole & Robert J.R. Elliott & Jing Zhang, 2011. "Growth, Foreign Direct Investment, And The Environment: Evidence From Chinese Cities," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 121-138, 02.
  2. Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2009. "Tax Policies for Low-Carbon Technologies," NBER Working Papers 15054, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Emilio Gutierrez & Kensuke Teshima, 2011. "Import Competition and Environmental Performance: Evidence from Mexican Plant-level and Satellite Imagery Data," Working Papers 1101, Centro de Investigacion Economica, ITAM.

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