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Uncertainty and Trade Agreements

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  • Nuno Limão
  • Giovanni Maggi

Abstract

In this paper we explore the potential gains that a trade agreement (TA) can provide by regulating trade-policy uncertainty, in addition to the more standard gains from reducing the mean levels of trade barriers. We show that in a standard trade model with income-risk neutrality there tends to be an uncertainty- increasing motive for a TA. With income-risk aversion, on the other hand, the uncertainty-managing motive for a TA is determined by interesting trade-offs. For a given degree of risk aversion, an uncertainty- reducing motive for a TA is more likely to be present when the economy is more open, the export supply elasticity is lower and the economy is more specialized. Governments have stronger incentives to sign a TA when the trading environment is more uncertain. As exogenous trade costs decline, the gains from decreasing trade-policy uncertainty tend to become more important relative to the gains from reducing average trade barriers. We also derive simple "sufficient statistics" to determine the direction of the uncertainty motive for a TA and the associated welfare gains, and we apply them to the trading relationship between US and Cuba before 1934. Finally, we examine how the uncertainty motive for a TA is affected by the presence of ex-ante investments, and examine conditions under which an uncertainty-reducing TA will increase investment in the export sector.

Suggested Citation

  • Nuno Limão & Giovanni Maggi, 2013. "Uncertainty and Trade Agreements," NBER Working Papers 18703, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18703
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    Cited by:

    1. Handley, Kyle, 2014. "Exporting under trade policy uncertainty: Theory and evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 50-66.
    2. repec:zbw:rwikon:177921 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Groppo, Valeria & Piermartini, Roberta, 2014. "Trade policy uncertainty and the WTO," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2014-23, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.
    4. Federico Esposito, 2016. "Risk Diversification and International Trade," 2016 Meeting Papers 302, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Handley, Kyle & Limão, Nuno, 2013. "Policy Uncertainty, Trade and Welfare: Theory and Evidence for China and the U.S," CEPR Discussion Papers 9615, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Matthew T. Cole & James Lake & Ben Zissimos, 2017. "Contesting an International Trade Agreement," Working Papers 1703, California Polytechnic State University, Department of Economics.
    7. Osnago, Alberto & Piermartini, Roberta & Rocha, Nadia, 2015. "Trade policy uncertainty as barrier to trade," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2015-05, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.
    8. Elie Appelbaum & Mark Melatos, 2016. "How Can Uncertainty Affect the Choice of Trade Agreements?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 92(297), pages 153-172, June.
    9. Meredith A. Crowley & Exton, O. & Han, L., 2018. "Renegotiation of Trade Agreements and Firm Exporting Decisions: Evidence from the Impact of Brexit on UK Exports," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1839, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    10. Jacks, David S., 2014. "Defying gravity: The Imperial Economic Conference and the reorientation of Canadian trade," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 19-39.
    11. Maggi, Giovanni, 2014. "International Trade Agreements," Handbook of International Economics, Elsevier.
    12. Groppo, Valeria & Piermartini, Roberta, 2014. "Trade policy uncertainty and the WTO," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2014-23, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F5 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy
    • F6 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations

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