Between free trade and protectionism: strategic trade policy and a theory of corporate trade demands
Conventional theories of the political economy of trade argue that industries in import-competing businesses favor protectionism, while multinational firms and export-dependent corporations advocate unconditional free trade. However, many multinational industries have recently advocated “strategic” trade policies: that is, they are willing to support free trade at home only if foreign markets are opened or foreign governments reduce subsidies to their firms. If demands for strategic trade policy were adopted by the United States, they could represent a threat to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the multilateral trading system. This article seeks to explain the emergence of these new corporate trade demands and thereby broaden theories of the political economy of trade. The article begins with the widely supported position that multinational and export-oriented firms prefer unconditional free trade. Building on concepts from theories of industrial organization and international trade, the article then hypothesizes that rising economies of scale and steep learning curves will necessitate that these firms have access to global markets via exports. If growing dependence on world markets is combined with foreign government subsidies or protection, the trade preferences of firms will shift from unconditional free trade to demands that openness at home be contingent on openness overseas. The manner in which firm demands then get translated into industry demands will vary with the industry's structure. If the industry consists of firms with symmetric strategies, it will seek strategic trade policy; but if the industry is highly segmented, it will turn toward protectionism. The article concludes with a preliminary test of these hypotheses in four brief studies of the politics of trade in the semiconductor, commercial aircraft, telecommunications equipment, and machine tool industries.
Volume (Year): 43 (1989)
Issue (Month): 02 (March)
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: Cambridge University Press, UPH, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge CB2 8BS UK|
Web page: http://journals.cambridge.org/jid_INO
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:43:y:1989:i:02:p:239-272_03. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Keith Waters)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.