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The Environmental Bias of Trade Policy

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  • Joseph S Shapiro

Abstract

This article describes a new fact, then analyzes its causes and consequences: in most countries, import tariffs and nontariff barriers are substantially lower on dirty than on clean industries, where an industry’s “dirtiness” is defined as its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per dollar of output. This difference in trade policy creates a global implicit subsidy to CO2 emissions in internationally traded goods and contributes to climate change. This global implicit subsidy to CO2 emissions totals several hundred billion dollars annually. The greater protection of downstream industries, which are relatively clean, substantially accounts for this pattern. The downstream pattern can be explained by theories where industries lobby for low tariffs on their inputs but final consumers are poorly organized. A quantitative general equilibrium model suggests that if countries applied similar trade policies to clean and dirty goods, global CO2 emissions would decrease and global real income would change little.

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  • Joseph S Shapiro, 2021. "The Environmental Bias of Trade Policy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 136(2), pages 831-886.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:136:y:2021:i:2:p:831-886.
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    14. Cole, Matthew T. & Lake, James & Zissimos, Ben, 2021. "Contesting an international trade agreement," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C).
    15. Costinot, Arnaud & Rodríguez-Clare, Andrés, 2014. "Trade Theory with Numbers: Quantifying the Consequences of Globalization," Handbook of International Economics, in: Gopinath, G. & Helpman, . & Rogoff, K. (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 0, pages 197-261, Elsevier.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F18 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Environment
    • F6 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • Q50 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - General
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth

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