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Interaction between trade and environment policies with special-interest politics


  • Meeta Keswani Mehra


Purpose - The purpose of the paper is to examine the interdependencies between trade and environment policies, as they get jointly determined in a political-economy model of a small open economy. In theoretical literature, government is usually modeled as benevolent. In real economies, however, it is not a pure social welfare maximizer. Lobbies have stakes in the specific policies, and they negotiate with/bribe the government over the latter's policy stance. The influence of industry lobbying on both trade and the environment policies at the political equilibrium is the focus of the paper. Design/methodology/approach - Concepts from non-cooperative game theory are used to incorporate a Nash-bargaining game between the industry lobby and government. Government is not benevolent. Campaign contributions help win elections and provide incentive to distort policies to attract lobby contributions. Several situations are modeled. Given a politically set environment policy, tariffs may be zero in view of the free trade agreements. Or, a sequential game is modeled where environment policy is set to maximize social welfare, given a politically determined trade policy. Alternatively, in the full political equilibrium, government and lobby bargain simultaneously over tariff and the environmental tax. Findings - Lobbying implies that government may trade-off one policy for another. When only environment policy is politically manipulable by the lobby, pollution tax is lower than the Pigouvian tax. If, instead, the lobby can influence trade policy only, government provides protection to domestic import-competing sector. In a sequential game, the trade policy outcome does not change, but pollution tax is always higher than the Pigouvian level, even with the environmental lobby absent. With both the policies political, the government “concedes” and offers positive tariff protection, but, not on environment policy; that is, imposes a pollution tax higher than the Pigouvian level. Originality/value - The paper provides useful insights into how, under the influence of special-interest politics, and bargaining between the government and lobbies, the trade and environment policies interact with each other. In comparison with the existing literature on this issue, it derives several stronger and (apparently) counter-intuitive conclusions.

Suggested Citation

  • Meeta Keswani Mehra, 2010. "Interaction between trade and environment policies with special-interest politics," Indian Growth and Development Review, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 3(2), pages 138-165, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:igdrpp:v:3:y:2010:i:2:p:138-165

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1995. "Trade Wars and Trade Talks," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 675-708, August.
    2. Hillman, Arye L, 1982. "Declining Industries and Political-Support Protectionist Motives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 1180-1187, December.
    3. Conconi, Paola, 2003. "Green lobbies and transboundary pollution in large open economies," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 399-422, March.
    4. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1996. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(2), pages 265-286.
    5. Giovanni Maggi & Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg, 1999. "Protection for Sale: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1135-1155, December.
    6. Schleich, Joachim, 1999. "Environmental quality with endogenous domestic and trade policies1," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 53-71, March.
    7. Brian R. Copeland & M. Scott Taylor, 1994. "North-South Trade and the Environment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(3), pages 755-787.
    8. Fredriksson, Per G., 1998. "Environmental policy choice: Pollution abatement subsidies," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 51-63, March.
    9. Fredriksson, Per G., 1997. "The Political Economy of Pollution Taxes in a Small Open Economy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 44-58, May.
    10. Aidt, Toke S., 1998. "Political internalization of economic externalities and environmental policy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 1-16, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Divya Datt & Meeta Keswani Mehra, 2016. "Environmental Policy in a Federation with Special Interest Politics and Inter-Governmental Grants," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 64(4), pages 575-595, August.


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