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Environmental Impacts of a North American Free Trade Agreement

  • Grossman, G.M
  • Krueger, A.B.

In general, a reduction in trade barriers will affect the environment by expanding the scale of economic activity, by altering the composition of economic activity and by initiating a change in the techniques of production. We present empirical evidence to assess the relative magnitudes of these three effects as they apply to further trade liberalization in Mexico. We first use comparable measures of three air pollutants in a cross-section of urban areas located in 42 countries to study the relationship between air quality and economic growth. We find for two pollutants (sulphur dioxide and `smoke') that concentrations increase with per capita GDP at low levels of national income, but decrease with GDP growth at higher levels of income. We then study the determinants of the industry pattern of US imports from Mexico and of value added by Mexico's maquiladora sector. We investigate whether the size of pollution abatement costs in US industry influences the pattern of international trade and investment. Finally, we use the results from a computable general equilibrium model to study the likely compositional effect of a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on pollution in Mexico.

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Paper provided by Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs in its series Papers with number 158.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: 1991
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fth:priwpu:158
Phone: (609) 258-4800
Web page:

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  1. Alan B. Krueger & John F. Burton, Jr., 1989. "The Employers' cost of Workers' Compensation Insurance: Magnitudes, Determinants, and Public Policy," NBER Working Papers 3029, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Siebert, Horst, 1977. "Environmental Quality and the Gains from Trade," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 30(4), pages 657-73.
  3. Tobey, James A, 1990. "The Effects of Domestic Environmental Policies on Patterns of World Trade: An Empirical Test," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(2), pages 191-209.
  4. Brown, D.K. & Deardorff, A.V. & Stern, R.M., 1991. "A North American Free Trade Agreement: Analytical Issues and A Computational Assessment," Working Papers 289, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  5. Yohe, Gary W., 1979. "The backward incidence of pollution control--some comparative statics in general equilibrium," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 187-198, September.
  6. McGuire, Martin C., 1982. "Regulation, factor rewards, and international trade," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 335-354, April.
  7. John M. Abowd, 1990. "The NBER Immigration, Trade, and Labor Markets Data Files," NBER Working Papers 3351, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Harkness, Jon P, 1978. "Factor Abundance and Comparative Advantage," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(5), pages 784-800, December.
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