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When is it Optimal to Delegate: The Theory of Fast-track Authority

  • Levent Celik
  • Bilgehan Karabay
  • John McLaren

With fast-track authority (FTA), the US Congress delegates trade-policy authority to the President by committing not to amend a trade agreement. We suggest an interpretation in which Congress uses FTA to forestall destructive competition between its members for protectionist rents. We show that FTA is never granted if an industry is operating in the majority of districts. Second, the more equally distributed are the industries across districts and the more similar are the industries' sizes, the more likely it is that FTA is granted. This is true since competition over rents is most punishing when bargaining power is symmetrically distributed, and in that case the ex ante expected welfare of each district is lower without FTA. Third, if existing levels of protection are very different across industries, even if FTA is granted, it may not lead to free trade because a majority of industries may prefer the status quo to free trade.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17810.

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Date of creation: Feb 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Levent Celik & Bilgehan Karabay & John McLaren, 2015. "When Is It Optimal to Delegate: The Theory of Fast-Track Authority," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 347-89, August.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17810
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  1. Baron David & Kalai Ehud, 1993. "The Simplest Equilibrium of a Majority-Rule Division Game," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 290-301, December.
  2. Marquez, Jaime, 1990. "Bilateral Trade Elasticities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 72(1), pages 70-77, February.
  3. Eraslan, Hulya, 2002. "Uniqueness of Stationary Equilibrium Payoffs in the Baron-Ferejohn Model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 103(1), pages 11-30, March.
  4. Celik, Levent & Karabay, Bilgehan & McLaren, John, 2013. "Trade policy-making in a model of legislative bargaining," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 179-190.
  5. David M. Primo, 2006. "Stop Us Before We Spend Again: Institutional Constraints On Government Spending," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(3), pages 269-312, November.
  6. Levent Celik & Bilgehan Karabay, 2011. "A Note on Equilibrium Uniqueness in the Baron-Ferejohn Model," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp440, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
  7. Joseph E. Gagnon, 2003. "Long-run supply effects and the elasticities approach to trade," International Finance Discussion Papers 754, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  8. Lohmann, Susanne & O'Halloran, Sharyn, 1994. "Divided government and U.S. trade policy: theory and evidence," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(04), pages 595-632, September.
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