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Optimal Tariffs: The Evidence

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  • Broda, Christian
  • Limão, Nuno
  • Weinstein, David E.

Abstract

The theoretical debate over whether countries can and should set tariffs in response to export elasticities goes back over a century to the writings of Edgeworth (1894) and Bickerdike (1907). Despite the optimal tariff argument's centrality in debates over trade policy, there exists no evidence about whether countries actually apply it when setting tariffs. We estimate disaggregate export elasticities and find evidence that countries that are not members of the World Trade Organization systematically set higher tariffs on goods that are supplied inelastically. The result is robust to the inclusion of political economy variables and a variety of model specifications. Moreover, we find that countries with higher aggregate market power have on average higher tariffs. In short, we find strong evidence in favour of the optimal tariff argument.

Suggested Citation

  • Broda, Christian & Limão, Nuno & Weinstein, David E., 2006. "Optimal Tariffs: The Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 5540, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5540
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Paola Conconi & Giovanni Facchini & Maurizio Zanardi, 2012. "Fast-Track Authority and International Trade Negotiations," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 146-189, August.
    2. Elizaveta Archanskaia & Guillaume Daudin, 2012. "Heterogeneity and the Distance Puzzle," FIW Working Paper series 095, FIW.
    3. Antoine Bouët & David Laborde Debucquet, 2012. "Food crisis and export taxation: the cost of non-cooperative trade policies," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 148(1), pages 209-233, April.
    4. Felbermayr, Gabriel & Jung, Benjamin & Larch, Mario, 2013. "Optimal tariffs, retaliation, and the welfare loss from tariff wars in the Melitz model," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 13-25.
    5. Antràs, Pol & Padró i Miquel, Gerard, 2011. "Foreign influence and welfare," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, pages 135-148.
    6. Diakantoni, Antonia & Escaith, Hubert, 2012. "Reassessing effective protection rates in a trade in tasks perspective: Evolution of trade policy in "Factory Asia"," MPRA Paper 41723, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. repec:eee:reecon:v:71:y:2017:i:4:p:759-783 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Guillaume Daudin & Elizaveta Archanskaia, 2012. "Heterogeneity and distance puzzle," Working Papers hal-01073683, HAL.
    9. Christian Broda & Nuno Limao & David E. Weinstein, 2008. "Optimal Tariffs and Market Power: The Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 2032-2065, December.
    10. Kyle Bagwell, 2009. "Self-Enforcing Trade Agreements and Private Information," NBER Working Papers 14812, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Limao, Nuno & Panagariya, Arvind, 2007. "Inequality and endogenous trade policy outcomes," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 292-309, July.
    12. Bouet, Antoine & Laborde Debucquet, David, 2010. "Economics of export taxation in a context of food crisis," IFPRI discussion papers 994, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    GATT; international trade; optimal tariffs; trade policy; WTO;

    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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