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Why were Latin America's tariffs so much higher than Asia's before 1950?


  • Clemens, Michael A.
  • Williamson, Jeffrey G.


Latin America had the highest tariffs in the world before 1914; Asia had the lowest. Heavily protected Latin America also boasted some of the most explosive belle époque growth, while open Asia registered some of the least. What brought the two regions to the opposite ends of the tariff policy spectrum? We find that limits to Asian tariff policy autonomy may have lowered tariffs substantially there, but by themselves they cannot explain why Asian tariffs were so much lower than the Latin American tariffs before 1914; that natural barriers, domestic political economy and strategic tariff policy seems to have contributed much to the difference and that the origins of Asian post-World War 2 import-substitution policies seem to lie in the interwar years when Asian tariff levels caught up with those of Latin America.

Suggested Citation

  • Clemens, Michael A. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 2012. "Why were Latin America's tariffs so much higher than Asia's before 1950?," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(01), pages 11-44, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:reveco:v:30:y:2012:i:01:p:11-44_00

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