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Trade Blocs and Trade Wars during the Interwar Period

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  • Novy, Dennis
  • Jacks, David

Abstract

What precisely were the causes and consequences of the trade wars in the 1930s? Were there perhaps deeper forces at work in reorienting global trade prior to the outbreak of World War II? And what lessons may this particular historical episode provide for the present day? To answer these questions, we distinguish between long-run secular trends in the period from 1920 to 1939 related to the formation of trade blocs (in particular, the British Commonwealth) and short-run disruptions associated with the trade wars of the 1930s (in particular, large and widespread declines in bilateral trade, the narrowing of trade imbalances, and sharp drops in average traded distances). We argue that the trade wars mainly served to intensify pre-existing efforts towards the formation of trade blocs which dated from at least 1920. More speculatively, we argue that the trade wars of the present day may serve a similar purpose as those in the 1930s, that is, the intensification of China- and US-centric trade blocs.

Suggested Citation

  • Novy, Dennis & Jacks, David, 2019. "Trade Blocs and Trade Wars during the Interwar Period," CEPR Discussion Papers 13716, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:13716
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    2. Anderson, Kym, 2022. "Trade-related food policies in a more volatile climate and trade environment," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 109(C).
    3. Thorbecke, Willem & Chen, Chen & Salike, Nimesh, 2021. "China’s exports in a protectionist world," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C).
    4. Berbenni, Enrico, 2021. "External devaluation and trade balance in 1930s Italy," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 93-107.
    5. Kris James Mitchener & Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke & Kirsten Wandschneider, 2022. "The Smoot-Hawley Trade War," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 132(647), pages 2500-2533.
    6. Kym Anderson, 2021. "Food policy in a more volatile climate and trade environment," Departmental Working Papers 2021-25, The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics.
    7. Florin Marius PAVELESCU, 2021. "The kitchin cycles of interwar Romania’s economy," Romanian Journal of Economics, Institute of National Economy, vol. 53(2(62)), pages 05-26, December.
    8. David M Higgins & Brian D Varian, 2021. "Britain’s Empire Marketing Board and the failure of soft trade policy, 1926–33 [Bringing another empire alive? The Empire Marketing Board and the construction of Dominion identity, 1926–1933]," European Review of Economic History, European Historical Economics Society, vol. 25(4), pages 780-805.
    9. Kris James Mitchener Author e-mail: kmitchener@scu.edu & Kirsten Wandschneider Author e-mail: kirsten.wandschneider@univie.ac.at & Kevin Hjortshøj O’Rourke Author e-mail: akevin.orourke@nyu.edu, 2021. "The Smoot-Hawley Trade War," Working Papers 20210061, New York University Abu Dhabi, Department of Social Science, revised Mar 2021.
    10. Takatoshi Ito & Kazumasa Iwata & Colin McKenzie & Shujiro Urata, 2020. "Trade Wars: Editors' Overview," Asian Economic Policy Review, Japan Center for Economic Research, vol. 15(1), pages 1-30, January.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Commonwealth; Distance; Gravity; Interwar period; Trade blocs; Trade wars;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F3 - International Economics - - International Finance
    • N7 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services

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