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Mercantilism as strategic trade policy: the Anglo-Dutch rivalry for the East India trade

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  • Douglas A. Irwin

Abstract

This paper provides a reinterpretation of seventeenth-century mercantilist trade doctrine and policy in light of recent theories of strategic trade policy. Mercantilist economic thought, like strategic export-promotion theories, emphasized the use of government policy to capture rents that arise from imperfect competition in international trade. The economic structure of the Anglo-Dutch rivalry for the East India trade provides an excellent illustration of an environment in which the profit-shifting motive for strategic trade policies exists. Using data from the seventeenth-century East India trade, I find that the scope for strategic trade policies was clearly present, although the gains from such policies were probably quite small and are highly sensitive to assumptions about demand.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas A. Irwin, 1990. "Mercantilism as strategic trade policy: the Anglo-Dutch rivalry for the East India trade," International Finance Discussion Papers 392, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgif:392
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fershtman, Chaim & Judd, Kenneth L, 1987. "Equilibrium Incentives in Oligopoly," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 927-940, December.
    2. Steven D. Sklivas, 1987. "The Strategic Choice of Managerial Incentives," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(3), pages 452-458, Autumn.
    3. Brander, James A. & Spencer, Barbara J., 1985. "Export subsidies and international market share rivalry," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1-2), pages 83-100, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2005. "Did Vasco da Gama Matter for European Markets? Testing Frederick Lane's Hypotheses Fifty Years Later," NBER Working Papers 11884, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Robert A. Ritz, 2014. "On Welfare Losses Due to Imperfect Competition," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(1), pages 167-190, March.
    3. Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1999. "The Heckscher-Ohlin Model Between 1400 and 2000: When It Explained Factor Price Convergence, When It Did Not, and Why," NBER Working Papers 7411, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2009. "Did Vasco da Gama matter for European markets? -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 62(3), pages 655-684, August.
    5. Heng-Fu Zou, 1997. "Dynamic analysis in the Viner model of mercantilism," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 637-651, August.
    6. Glaser, Darrell J. & Rahman, Ahmed S., 2016. "Ex Tridenti Mercatus? Sea-power and maritime trade in the age of globalization," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 95-111.
    7. Rei, Claudia, 2011. "The organization of Eastern merchant empires," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 116-135, January.
    8. Hendrik P. van Dalen & Aico P. van Vuuren, 2003. "Greasing the Wheels of Trade," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 03-066/1, Tinbergen Institute.
    9. Williamson, Jeffrey G, 2013. "The Commodity Export, Growth, and Distribution Connection in Southeast Asia 1500-1940," CEPR Discussion Papers 9364, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Fiona Scott Morton, 1996. "Entry and Predation: British Shipping Cartels 1879-1929," NBER Working Papers 5663, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Wang, Gaowang & Zou, Heng-fu, 2011. "The Effects of Macroeconomic Policies in a Mercantilist Economy," MPRA Paper 73305, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 25 Aug 2016.
    12. Keith Head & Barbara J. Spencer, 2017. "Oligopoly in International Trade: Rise, Fall and Resurgence," NBER Working Papers 23720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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