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Self-Enforcing Trade Agreements and Private Information

  • Kyle Bagwell

This paper considers self-enforcing trade agreements among privately informed governments. A trade agreement that uses weak bindings (i.e., maximal tariff levels) is shown to offer advantages relative to a trade agreement that uses strong bindings (i.e., precise tariff levels). Consistent with practice, the theory also predicts that governments sometimes apply tariffs that are strictly below their bound rates. When private information is persistent through time, an enforcement "ratchet effect" is identified: a government reveals that it is "weak," and thus that it is unlikely to retaliate in an effective manner, when it applies a low tariff. This effect suggests that a government with a low type may "pool" at an above-optimal tariff, in order to conceal weakness. It also suggests a new information-based theory of gradualism in trade agreements.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14812.

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Date of creation: Mar 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14812
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  1. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1989. "A Theory of Managed Trade," Discussion Papers 801, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  2. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1997. "An Economic Theory of GATT," NBER Working Papers 6049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Baldwin, Richard, 1987. "Politically realistic objective functions and trade policy PROFs and tariffs," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 287-290.
  4. Giovanni Maggi, 1999. "The Role of Multilateral Institutions in International Trade Cooperation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 190-214, March.
  5. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1993. "Trade Wars and Trade Talks," NBER Working Papers 4280, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Broda, Christian & Limão, Nuno & Weinstein, David E., 2006. "Optimal Tariffs: The Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 5540, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Mohamed Hedi Bchir & Sébastien Jean & David Laborde, 2006. "Binding Overhang and Tariff-Cutting Formulas," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer, vol. 142(2), pages 207-232, July.
  8. 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.
  9. Maggi, Giovanni & Rodriguez-Clare, Andres, 2005. "A Political-Economy Theory of Trade Agreements," CEPR Discussion Papers 5321, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Horn, Henrik & Maggi, Giovanni & Staiger, Robert, 2007. "Trade Agreements as Endogenously Incomplete Contracts," CEPR Discussion Papers 6037, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Richard Chisik, 2010. "Gradualism in Free Trade Agreements: A Theoretical Justification," Working Papers 018, Ryerson University, Department of Economics.
  12. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1994. "Protection for Sale," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 833-50, September.
  13. Susan Athey & Kyle Bagwell & Chris Sanchirico, 2004. "Collusion and Price Rigidity," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(2), pages 317-349.
  14. Susan Athey & Kyle Bagwell, 1999. "Optimal Collusion with Private Information," Working papers 99-17, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  15. Susan Athey & Kyle Bagwell, 2007. "Collusion with Persistent Cost Shocks," Levine's Bibliography 321307000000000898, UCLA Department of Economics.
  16. Bond, Eric W & Park, Jee-Hyeong, 2002. "Gradualism in Trade Agreements with Asymmetric Countries," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(2), pages 379-406, April.
  17. Michael Devereux, 1990. "Growth, Specialization, and Trade Liberalization," Working Papers 786, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  18. MARTIN, Alberto & VERGOTE, Wouter, 2007. "On the role of retaliation in trade agreements," CORE Discussion Papers 2007089, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  19. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Tirole, Jean, 1988. "The Dynamics of Incentive Contracts," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(5), pages 1153-75, September.
  20. Lee, Gea M., 2007. "Trade agreements with domestic policies as disguised protection," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 241-259, March.
  21. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 2004. "The Economics of the World Trading System," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262524341, June.
  22. Freixas, Xavier & Guesnerie, Roger & Tirole, Jean, 1985. "Planning under Incomplete Information and the Ratchet Effect," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 173-91, April.
  23. Bagwell, Kyle & Staiger, Robert W., 2001. "Reciprocity, non-discrimination and preferential agreements in the multilateral trading system," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 281-325, June.
  24. Feenstra, Robert C & Lewis, Tracy R, 1991. "Negotiated Trade Restrictions with Private Political Pressure," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1287-307, November.
  25. Aramendia Miguel & Ruiz Luis & Wen Quan, 2008. "Forgiving-Proof Equilibrium in Infinitely Repeated Games," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-17, February.
  26. Bagwell, Kyle & Sykes, Alan O., 2004. "Chile price band system and safeguard measures relating to certain agricultural products," World Trade Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(03), pages 507-528, November.
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