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Threats or Promises? A Built-in Mechanism of Gradual Reciprocal Trade Liberalization


  • Taiji Furusawa

    (Graduate School of Economics, Hitotsubashi University, Japan)

  • Takashi Kamihigashi

    (Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration (RIEB), Kobe University, Japan)


We analyze an infinitely repeated tariff-setting game played by two large countries with alternating moves. We focus on the subgame perfect equilibria in which each country chooses its tariff according to a stationary function of the other country's tariff. We show that there are many equilibria with two steady states, one with higher tariffs (but still lower than the static Nash tariffs), the other with lower tariffs. We also show that there is a special class of equilibria in which there exists a unique, globally stable steady state. In both types of equilibria, one country unilaterally reduces its tariff from the static Nash equilibrium, the other country reciprocates in response to the first country's implicit "promise" to lower its tariff even further, and this process continues forever, converging to a steady state with tariffs lower than the static Nash tariffs. Therefore, promises, rather than threats, induce countries to gradually reduce their tariffs.

Suggested Citation

  • Taiji Furusawa & Takashi Kamihigashi, 2011. "Threats or Promises? A Built-in Mechanism of Gradual Reciprocal Trade Liberalization," Discussion Paper Series DP2011-27, Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration, Kobe University, revised Jan 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:kob:dpaper:dp2011-27

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jagdish Bhagwati (ed.), 2002. "Going Alone: The Case for Relaxed Reciprocity in Freeing Trade," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262025213, January.
    2. Takashi Kamihigashi & Taiji Furusawa, 2010. "Global dynamics in repeated games with additively separable payoffs," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(4), pages 899-918, October.
    3. Furusawa, Taiji & Lai, Edwin L. -C., 1999. "Adjustment costs and gradual trade liberalization," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 333-361, December.
    4. Krishna, Pravin & Mitra, Devashish, 2005. "Reciprocated unilateralism in trade policy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 461-487, March.
    5. Eric W. Bond & Jee-Hyeong Park, 2002. "Gradualism in Trade Agreements with Asymmetric Countries," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(2), pages 379-406.
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    Cited by:

    1. Germán H. GONZALEZ & Alexis S. ESPOSTO & Valentina N. VIEGO, 2015. "Reciprocity in bilateral trade flows: An empirical analysis for trade between Australia and Latin American countries," Applied Econometrics and International Development, Euro-American Association of Economic Development, vol. 15(1), pages 31-44.
    2. Hiroshi Daisaka & Taiji Furusawa, 2014. "Dynamic Free Trade Networks: Some Numerical Results," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(3), pages 469-487, August.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations

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