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Fundamental dimensions of U.S. trade policy


  • Bohara, Alok K.
  • Camargo, Alejandro Islas
  • Grijalva, Therese
  • Gawande, Kishore


How many dimensions adequately characterize voting on U.S. trade policy? How are these dimensions to be interpreted? This paper seeks those answers in the context of voting on the landmark 1988 Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act. The paper takes steps beyond the existing literature. First, using a factor analytic approach, the dimension issue is examined to determine whether subsets of roll call votes on trade policy are correlated. A factor-analytic result allows the use of a limited number of votes for this purpose. Second, a structural model with latent variables is used to find what economic and political factors comprise these dimensions. The study yields two main findings. More than one dimension determines voting in the Senate, with the main dimension driven by economic interest, not ideology. Although two dimensions are required to fully account for House voting, one dimension dominates. That dimension is driven primarily by party. Based on reported evidence, and a growing consensus in the congressional studies literature, this finding is attributed to interest-based leadership that evolves in order to solve collective action problems faced by individual legislators.
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  • Bohara, Alok K. & Camargo, Alejandro Islas & Grijalva, Therese & Gawande, Kishore, 2005. "Fundamental dimensions of U.S. trade policy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 93-125, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:inecon:v:65:y:2005:i:1:p:93-125

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Baldwin, Robert E & Magee, Christopher S, 2000. "Is Trade Policy for Sale? Congressional Voting on Recent Trade Bills," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 105(1-2), pages 79-101, October.
    2. Trefler, Daniel, 1993. "Trade Liberalization and the Theory of Endogenous Protection: An Econometric Study of U.S. Import Policy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(1), pages 138-160, February.
    3. Weingast, Barry R & Marshall, William J, 1988. "The Industrial Organization of Congress; or, Why Legislatures, Like Firms, Are Not Organized as Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(1), pages 132-163, February.
    4. Nollen, Stanley D. & Quinn, Dennis P., 1994. "Free trade, fair trade, strategic trade, and protectionism in the U.S. Congress, 1987–88," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(03), pages 491-525, June.
    5. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1994. "Protection for Sale," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 833-850, September.
    6. Irwin, Douglas A, 1994. "The Political Economy of Free Trade: Voting in the British General Election of 1906," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(1), pages 75-108, April.
    7. Peltzman, Sam, 1984. "Constituent Interest and Congressional Voting," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 181-210, April.
    8. Ray, Edward John, 1981. "The Determinants of Tariff and Nontariff Trade Restrictions in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(1), pages 105-121, February.
    9. Kishore Gawande, 1998. "Comparing Theories Of Endogenous Protection: Bayesian Comparison Of Tobit Models Using Gibbs Sampling Output," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(1), pages 128-140, February.
    10. James B. Kau & Donald Keenan & Paul H. Rubin, 1982. "A General Equilibrium Model of Congressional Voting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(2), pages 271-293.
    11. James J. Heckman & James M. Snyder, Jr., 1996. "Linear Probability Models of the Demand for Attributes with an Empirical Application to Estimating the Preferences of Legislators," NBER Working Papers 5785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Kalt, Joseph P & Zupan, Mark A, 1984. "Capture and Ideology in the Economic Theory of Politics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 279-300, June.
    13. Kau, James B & Rubin, Paul H, 1979. "Self-Interest, Ideology, and Logrolling in Congressional Voting," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 365-384, October.
    14. Peltzman, Sam, 1985. "An Economic Interpretation of the History of Congressional Voting in the Twentieth Century," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 656-675, September.
    15. Stratmann, Thomas, 1996. "How Reelection Constituencies Matter: Evidence from Political Action Committees' Contributions and Congressional Voting," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(2), pages 603-635, October.
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    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F2 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business


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