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Tight Clothing: How the MFA Affects Asian Apparel Exports

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  • Carolyn L. Evans
  • James Harrigan

Abstract

International trade in apparel and textiles is regulated by a system of bilateral tariffs and quotas known as the Multifiber Arrangement or MFA. Using a time series of detailed product-level data from the United States on the quotas and tariffs that comprise the MFA, we analyze how the MFA affects the sources and prices of US apparel imports, with a particular focus on the effects on East Asian exporters during the 1990s. We show that while a large fraction of US apparel is imported under binding quotas, there are many quotas that remain unfilled. We also show that binding quotas substantially raise import prices, suggesting both quality upgrading and rent capture by exporters. In contrast, tariffs reduce import prices. Lastly, we argue that the substantial shift of US apparel imports away from Asia in favor of Mexico and the Caribbean during the 1990s is only partly due to discriminatory trade policy: the other reason is an increasing demand for timely delivery that gives a competitive advantage to nearby exporters.

Suggested Citation

  • Carolyn L. Evans & James Harrigan, 2004. "Tight Clothing: How the MFA Affects Asian Apparel Exports," NBER Working Papers 10250, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10250
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    1. Carolyn L. Evans & James Harrigan, 2003. "Distance, time, and specialization," International Finance Discussion Papers 766, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. J. Michael Finger & Ann Harrison, 1996. "Import Protection for U.S. Textiles and Apparel: Viewed from the Domestic Perspective," NBER Chapters,in: The Political Economy of Trade Protection, pages 43-50 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nordås, Hildegunn Kyvik, 2004. "The global textile and clothing industry post the agreement on textiles and clothing," WTO Discussion Papers 5, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.
    2. Joseph Francois & Julia Woerz, 0000. "Rags in the High Rent District: the Evolution of Quota Rents in Textiles and Clothing," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 06-007/2, Tinbergen Institute.
    3. Mary Amiti & John Romalis, 2007. "Will the Doha Round Lead to Preference Erosion?," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 54(2), pages 338-384, June.
    4. Francois, Joseph & Woerz, Julia, 2009. "Non-linear panel estimation of import quotas: The evolution of quota premiums under the ATC," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(2), pages 181-191, July.
    5. Hylke Vandenbussche & Francesco Di Comite & Laura Rovegno & Christian Viegelahn, 2011. "Moving up the Quality ladder? EU-China Trade Dynamics in Clothing," LICOS Discussion Papers 30111, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
    6. John Romalis, 2007. "NAFTA's and CUSFTA's Impact on International Trade," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(3), pages 416-435, August.
    7. James Harrigan & Geoffrey Barrows, 2009. "Testing the Theory of Trade Policy: Evidence from the Abrupt End of the Multifiber Arrangement," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(2), pages 282-294, May.
    8. repec:ilo:ilowps:374452 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Bala Ramasamy & Matthew Yeung, 2008. "Does China have a competitive advantage in the low-end garment industry? A case study approach," STUDIES IN TRADE AND INVESTMENT,in: Unveiling Protectionism: Regional Responses to Remaining Barriers in the Textiles and Clothing Trade United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
    10. Irene Brambilla & Amit K. Khandelwal & Peter K. Schott, 2010. "China's Experience under the Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA) and the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC)," NBER Chapters,in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 345-387 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Defever, Fabrice & Heid, Benedikt & Larch, Mario, 2015. "Spatial exporters," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 145-156.
    12. Wojan, Timothy R., 2004. "Concentration, Vulnerability And Adjustment: Rural Textile And Apparel Employment And The Expiration Of Import Quotas," 2004 Annual meeting, August 1-4, Denver, CO 19922, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    13. Kyvik Nord°as, Hildegunn., 2005. "Labour implications of the textiles and clothing quota phase-out," ILO Working Papers 993744523402676, International Labour Organization.
    14. Nordås, Hildegunn Kyvik & Piermartini, Roberta, 2004. "Infrastructure and trade," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2004-04, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.

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    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations

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