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Domestic politics and the strategy of international trade


  • Frederick W. Mayer

    (Assistant Professor of Public Policy Studies at Duke University)


The policymaking problem in international trade is fundamentally strategic, since optimal national policy depends on what other nations choose to do. The game is not between unitary rational actors, however, but rather between players with considerable internal divisions about what policy should be. There is a rich domestic politics to international trade policymaking. Conventional wisdom holds that internal division is a liability in international interactions. This article demonstrates that if countries are divided internally between divergent interests, this will alter the outcome of strategic games between countries in, for example, setting tariffs. In particular, internal division can actually be helpful to a country, since a protectionist faction helps to make a protectionist threat more credible.

Suggested Citation

  • Frederick W. Mayer, 1991. "Domestic politics and the strategy of international trade," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(2), pages 222-246.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:10:y:1991:i:2:p:222-246
    DOI: 10.2307/3325173

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Paul Krugman, 1986. "Strategic Trade Policy and the New International Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262610450.
    2. Jensen, Richard & Thursby, Marie, 1990. "Tariffs with private information and reputation," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1-2), pages 43-67, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Laurence E. Lynn, 1994. "Public management research: The triumph of art over science," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(2), pages 231-259.
    2. Alastair Smith & David R. Hayes, 1996. "The shadow of the polls: Electoral effects on international agreements," International Interactions, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(1), pages 79-108, September.
    3. Trofimov, Ivan D., 2017. "Political economy of trade protection and liberalization: in search of agency-based and holistic framework of policy change," MPRA Paper 79504, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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