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Free trade and the burden of domestic policy


  • Sumeet Gulati


Consider a small economy facing accession to a exogenously defined trade agreement. Before accession, the government controls trade and pollution policy. After accession, it retains control over pollution policy, but must allow free trade in all goods. This is a choice many governments face while joining trade agreements today. They decide whether greater market access to other members is more valuable than control over trade policy. I ask two questions. All else being equal what happens to environmental policy after accession? Second, what affects the choice of accession and how does this choice impact aggregate welfare? I show that a loss in control over trade policy alters the political incentives determining environmental policy. Before accession, producers can transfer a portion of their burden of environmental regulation to consumers through price increases. After accession the same regulation is borne entirely by producers. Owing to the change in burden, there exist plausible conditions under which the adoption of free trade can lead to more stringent environmental regulation, a reduction in the preferential treatment of special interest groups, and an increase in aggregate welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Sumeet Gulati, 2008. "Free trade and the burden of domestic policy," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 41(3), pages 817-837, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:41:y:2008:i:3:p:817-837

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    Cited by:

    1. Gulati Sumeet, 2010. "Price and Quantity Policies in a Simple Political Economy Framework," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-16, October.
    2. Per G. Fredriksson & Xenia Matschke, 2016. "Trade Liberalization and Environmental Taxation in Federal Systems," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 118(1), pages 150-167, January.
    3. Chahreddine ABBES, "undated". "When Free Trade is Good for the Environment?," EcoMod2009 21500000, EcoMod.
    4. Alain-Désiré Nimubona & Horatiu Rus, 2015. "Green Technology Transfers and Border Tax Adjustments," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 62(1), pages 189-206, September.
    5. Badulescu, Dan & Baylis, Katherine R., 2006. "Pesticide Regulation Under NAFTA: Harmonization in Process?," Commissioned Papers 24163, Canadian Agricultural Trade Policy Research Network.
    6. Ederington,Josh & Ruta,Michele, 2016. "Non-tariff measures and the world trading system," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7661, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F18 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Environment
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy


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