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Tariffs, Employment and the Current Account: Real Wage Resistance and the Macroeconomics of Protectionism

  • van Wijnbergen, Sweder

Using a standard complete specialization model of a small open economy within a rigorous intertemporal optimization framework and with contract-based wage rigidity, we show that permanent tariffs lead to a current account deterioration and a fall in employment, contradicting most of the literature on macroeconomic effects of import tariffs. The crucial factor in this complete reversal of standard results is the impact of tariffs on domestic real product wages via wage indexation. Temporary tariffs will have less of a negative impact on the CA or potentially even a positive impact, because they increase the consumption rate of interest (the terms at which future consumption can be traded for current consumption) and so increase private savings. Extensions towards incorporating a more general production structure, investment and the use of tariff revenues to provide wage subsidies are presented.

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Article provided by Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association in its journal International Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 28 (1987)
Issue (Month): 3 (October)
Pages: 691-706

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Handle: RePEc:ier:iecrev:v:28:y:1987:i:3:p:691-706
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  1. Lloyd A. Metzler, 1949. "Tariffs, the Terms of Trade, and the Distribution of National Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57, pages 1.
  2. Russell S. Boyer, 1977. "Commercial Policy under Alternative Exchange Rate Regimes," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 10(2), pages 218-32, May.
  3. Mussa, Michael, 1974. "Tariffs and the Distribution of Income: The Importance of Factor Specificity, Substitutability, and Intensity in the Short and Long Run," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1191-1203, Nov.-Dec..
  4. Mussa, Michael, 1974. "A Monetary Approach to Balance-of-Payments Analysis," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 6(3), pages 333-51, August.
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