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Non-Tariff Barriers as a Test of Political Economy Theories

  • Philip I. Levy

This paper provides a rough test of a broad and prominent class of political economy of trade models and finds them wanting. The class features governments with weighted social welfare functions, including the prominent model of Grossman and Helpman. Whether the government is the single domestic player or there are other players involved (as with the lobbies in the Grossman-Helpman case) the government ultimately acts as a unitary player in international dealings. Recent work has shown that such unitary actors care exclusively about terms of trade in international negotiations. This paper pursues the implication that governments' choice of trade instruments may offer a better test of the unitary government framework than existing empirical work. We use the structure of United States protection to argue that governments consistently choose instruments that sacrifice terms of trade, thus casting doubt on the unitary approach. We offer a discussion of alternative theories of political economy that could accommodate this stylized fact.

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Paper provided by Economic Growth Center, Yale University in its series Working Papers with number 852.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:852
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  1. Grossman, Gene & Helpman, Elhanan, 1993. "Trade Wars and Trade Talks," CEPR Discussion Papers 806, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Robert C. Feenstra & Tracy R. Lewis, 1987. "Negotiated Trade Restrictions with Private Political Pressure," NBER Working Papers 2374, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ted Bergstrom, 1995. "A Survey of Theories of the Family," Papers _027, University of Michigan, Department of Economics.
  4. Rosendorff, B.P., 1995. "Voluntary Export Restraints, Anti-Dumping Procedure and Domestic Politics," Papers 9512, Southern California - Department of Economics.
  5. Grossman, G.M. & Helpman, E., 1992. "Protection for Sale," Papers 162, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  6. Staiger, Robert W. & Wolak, Frank A., 1992. "The effect of domestic antidumping law in the presence of foreign monopoly," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3-4), pages 265-287, May.
  7. Edward E. Leamer & James Levinsohn, 1994. "International Trade Theory: The Evidence," NBER Working Papers 4940, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Maggi, Giovanni & Rodriguez-Clare, Andres, 2000. "Import penetration and the politics of trade protection," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 287-304, August.
  9. Robert W. Staiger & Kyle Bagwell, 1999. "An Economic Theory of GATT," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 215-248, March.
  10. Becker, Gary S, 1983. "A Theory of Competition among Pressure Groups for Political Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(3), pages 371-400, August.
  11. Giovanni Maggi & Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg, 1999. "Protection for Sale: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1135-1155, December.
  12. Rodrik, Dani, 1995. "Political economy of trade policy," Handbook of International Economics, in: G. M. Grossman & K. Rogoff (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1457-1494 Elsevier.
  13. Robert C. Feenstra, 1992. "How Costly Is Protectionism?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 159-178, Summer.
  14. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1986. "Common Agency," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(4), pages 923-42, July.
  15. James Levinsohn & Steven Berry & Ariel Pakes, 1999. "Voluntary Export Restraints on Automobiles: Evaluating a Trade Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 400-430, June.
  16. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1999. "Domestic Policies, National Sovereignty and International Economic Institutions," NBER Working Papers 7293, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Baldwin, Richard, 1987. "Politically realistic objective functions and trade policy PROFs and tariffs," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 287-290.
  18. Gary Clyde Hufbauer & Kimberly Ann Elliott, 1994. "Measuring the Costs of Protection in the United States," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 77, May.
  19. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 2001. "The WTO as a Mechanism for Securing Market Access Property Rights: Implications for Global Labor and Environmental Issues," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 69-88, Summer.
  20. Kishore Gawande & Usree Bandyopadhyay, 2000. "Is Protection for Sale? Evidence on the Grossman-Helpman Theory of Endogenous Protection," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(1), pages 139-152, February.
  21. Coate, Stephen & Morris, Stephen, 1995. "On the Form of Transfers in Special Interests," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1210-35, December.
  22. Hillman, Arye L & Ursprung, Heinrich W, 1988. "Domestic Politics, Foreign Interests, and International Trade Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 719-45, September.
  23. Kala Krishna & Anne Krueger, 1995. "Implementing Free Trade Areas: Rules of Origin and Hidden Protection," NBER Working Papers 4983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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