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Putting the Lid on Lobbying: Tariff Structure and Long-Term Growth when Protection is for Sale

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  • Nathan Nunn
  • Daniel Trefler

Abstract

It has long been recognized that a country's tariffs are the endogenous outcome of a rent-seeking game whose equilibrium reflects national institutions. Thus, the structure of tariffs across industries provides insights into how institutions, as reflected in tariff policies, affect long-term growth. We start with the commonplace perception among politicians that protection of skill-intensive industries generates a growth-enhancing externality. Modifying the Grossman-Helpman protection for sale model to allow for this, we make two predictions. First, a country with good institutions will tolerate high average tariffs provided tariffs are biased towards skill-intensive industries. Second, there need not be any relationship between average tariffs and good institutions. Using data for 17 manufacturing industries in 59 countries over approximately 25 years, we find that average tariffs are uncorrelated with output growth and that the skill-bias of tariff structure is positively correlated with output growth. We interpret this to mean that countries grow faster if they are able and willing to put a lid on the rent-seeking behaviour of special interest lobby groups. We show that our results are not compatible with explanations that appeal to (1) externalities per se, (2) initial industrial structure that is skewed towards skill-intensive industries, or (3) the effects of broader institutions such as rule of law and control of corruption.

Suggested Citation

  • Nathan Nunn & Daniel Trefler, 2006. "Putting the Lid on Lobbying: Tariff Structure and Long-Term Growth when Protection is for Sale," NBER Working Papers 12164, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12164
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Luosha Du & Ann Harrison & Gary Jefferson, 2011. "Do Institutions Matter for FDI Spillovers? The Implications of China’s “Special Characteristics”," Working Papers 33, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School, revised Sep 2012.
    2. Tena Junguito, Antonio, 2008. "Bairoch revisited : tariff structure and growth in the late 19th century," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH wp08-04, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.
    3. Nathan Nunn & Daniel Trefler, 2010. "The Structure of Tariffs and Long-Term Growth," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 158-194, October.
    4. Stéphane BECUWE (GREThA, CNRS, UMR 5113) & Bertrand BLANCHETON (GREThA, CNRS, UMR 5113, 2011. "Tariff growth paradox between 1850 and 1913: a critical survey (In French)," Cahiers du GREThA 2011-24, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée.
    5. Dharmapala, Dhammika & Hines Jr., James R., 2009. "Which countries become tax havens?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(9-10), pages 1058-1068, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • O24 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Trade Policy; Factor Movement; Foreign Exchange Policy
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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