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A Political-Economy Theory of Trade Agreements

Author

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  • Maggi, Giovanni
  • Rodriguez-Clare, Andres

Abstract

We develop a model where trade agreements - in addition to correcting terms-of-trade externalities - help governments to commit vis-a-vis domestic industrial lobbies. We explore how trade liberalization is affected by the characteristics of the political environment, such as the degree to which governments are politically motivated and the influence of lobbies during the negotiation of the agreement. We find that governments may prefer to commit to tariff ceilings, rather than exact tariff levels. We also find that trade liberalization is deeper when capital is more mobile across sectors. In a dynamic extension of the model, the optimal agreement entails an immediate slashing of tariffs followed by a phase of gradual trade liberalization. In the gradual phase, the speed of liberalization is higher when capital is more mobile.

Suggested Citation

  • Maggi, Giovanni & Rodriguez-Clare, Andres, 2005. "A Political-Economy Theory of Trade Agreements," CEPR Discussion Papers 5321, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5321
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert Staiger, 1994. "A Theory of Gradual Trade Liberalization," International Trade 9410003, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 21 Oct 1994.
    2. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1995. "The Politics of Free-Trade Agreements," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 667-690, September.
    3. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1994. "Protection for Sale," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 833-850, September.
    4. Mayer, Wolfgang, 1981. "Theoretical Considerations on Negotiated Tariff Adjustments," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(1), pages 135-153, March.
    5. Zissimos, Ben, 2007. "The GATT and gradualism," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 410-433, April.
    6. 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.
    7. Mitra, Devashish, 2002. "Endogenous political organization and the value of trade agreements," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 473-485, August.
    8. Paola Conconi & Carlo Perroni, 2003. "Self-Enforcing International Agreements and Domestic Policy Credibility," CESifo Working Paper Series 988, CESifo Group Munich.
    9. Giovanni Maggi & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 1998. "The Value of Trade Agreements in the Presence of Political Pressures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(3), pages 574-601, June.
    10. Bagwell, Kyle & Staiger, Robert W., 2001. "Reciprocity, non-discrimination and preferential agreements in the multilateral trading system," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 281-325, June.
    11. Furusawa, Taiji & Lai, Edwin L. -C., 1999. "Adjustment costs and gradual trade liberalization," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 333-361, December.
    12. Giovanni Maggi, 1999. "The Role of Multilateral Institutions in International Trade Cooperation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 190-214, March.
    13. Robert W. Staiger & Kyle Bagwell, 1999. "An Economic Theory of GATT," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 215-248, March.
    14. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 2004. "Enforcement, Private Political Pressure and the GATT/WTO Escape Clause," NBER Working Papers 10987, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Staiger, Robert W & Tabellini, Guido, 1987. "Discretionary Trade Policy and Excessive Protection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 823-837, December.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    domestic commitment; lobbying; trade agreements;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations

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