Trade Policy, Poverty, and Development in a Dynamic General Equilibrium Model for Zambia
Many LDCs suffer from low levels of private investment, from acute shortages of social and physical infrastructure, and from widespread poverty and underemployment. How can trade policy help combat these problems? Neoclassical trade theory objects that the premise of the question is incorrect. According to the Principle of Targeting, it is better to use other policy instruments to counteract market imperfections and to target social objectives. Instead of interfering with free trade, the government should increase domestic taxes to pay for employment subsidies, investment subsidies, transfers to the poor, and additional public investment in infrastructure. Policy makers reject this advice as impractical. Our objective in this paper is to restart the policy dialogue. We build a dynamic general equilibrium trade model that is rich in structural detail and policy instruments but not a black box. We use the model to investigate how trade policy affects poverty, underemployment, aggregate capital accumulation, and real output in Zambia. The results consistently recommend policy packages that combine an escalated structure of protection with an escalated structure of export promotion. There is no support for the view that free trade or a low uniform tariff is approximately optimal.
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