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When and How Should Infant Industries Be Protected?

  • Melitz, Marc

This paper develops and analyzes a welfare maximizing model of infant industry protection. The domestic infant industry is competitive and experiences dynamic learning effects that are external to firms. The competitive foreign industry is mature and produces a good that is an imperfect substitute for the domestic good. A government planner can protect the infant industry using domestic production subsidies, tariffs, or quotas in order to maximize domestic welfare over time. As protection is not always optimal (although the domestic industry experiences a learning externality), the paper shows how the decision to protect the industry should depend on the industry's learning potential, the shape of the learning curve, and the degree of substitutability between domestic and foreign goods. Assuming some reasonable restrictions on the flexibility over time of the policy instruments, the paper subsequently compares the effectiveness of the different instruments. Given such restrictions, the paper shows that quotas induce higher welfare levels than tariffs. In some cases, the dominance of the quota is so pronounced that it compensates for any amount of government revenue loss related to the administration of the quota (including the case of a voluntary export restraint, where no revenue is collected). In similar cases, the quota may even be preferred to a domestic production subsidy.

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Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 3228378.

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Date of creation: 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of International Economics
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3228378
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  1. Simon P. Anderson & Nicolas Schmitt, 2003. "Nontariff Barriers and Trade Liberalization," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(1), pages 80-97, January.
  2. Mill, John Stuart, 1848. "Principles of Political Economy (I): Production," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 1, number mill1848-1.
  3. Dinopoulos, Elias & Lewis, Tracy R. & Sappington, David E. M., 1995. "Optimal industrial targeting with unknown learning-by-doing," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 275-295, May.
  4. Mill, John Stuart, 1848. "Principles of Political Economy (III): Exchange," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 3, number mill1848-3.
  5. Baldwin, Robert E, 1969. "The Case against Infant-Industry Tariff Protection," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(3), pages 295-305, May/June.
  6. Clemhout, S & Wan, H Y, Jr, 1970. "Learning-by-Doing and Infant Industry Protection," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(1), pages 33-56, January.
  7. Branstetter, Lee G., 2001. "Are knowledge spillovers international or intranational in scope?: Microeconometric evidence from the U.S. and Japan," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 53-79, February.
  8. Mill, John Stuart, 1848. "Principles of Political Economy (II): Distribution," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 2, number mill1848-2.
  9. Head, Keith, 1994. "Infant industry protection in the steel rail industry," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3-4), pages 141-165, November.
  10. Redding, Stephen, 1999. "Dynamic Comparative Advantage and the Welfare Effects of Trade," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(1), pages 15-39, January.
  11. Bagwell, Kyle & Staiger, Robert W, 1990. "A Theory of Managed Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(4), pages 779-95, September.
  12. Robert C. Feenstra & Tracy R. Lewis, 1987. "Negotiated Trade Restrictions with Private Political Pressure," NBER Working Papers 2374, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Dasgupta, Partha & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1988. "Learning-by-Doing, Market Structure and Industrial and Trade Policies," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 40(2), pages 246-68, June.
  14. Deardorff, Alan V., 1987. "Why do governments prefer nontariff barriers?," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 191-216, January.
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  16. Young, Alwyn, 1991. "Learning by Doing and the Dynamic Effects of International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(2), pages 369-405, May.
  17. Krugman, Paul, 1987. "The narrow moving band, the Dutch disease, and the competitive consequences of Mrs. Thatcher : Notes on trade in the presence of dynamic scale economies," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1-2), pages 41-55, October.
  18. Alwyn Young, 1991. "Learning by Doing and the Dynamic Effects of International Trade," NBER Working Papers 3577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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