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Comparative Advantage and Optimal Trade Policy

Listed author(s):
  • Arnaud Costinot
  • Dave Donaldson
  • Jonathan Vogel
  • Ivan Werning

The theory of comparative advantage is at the core of neoclassical trade theory. Yet we know little about its implications for how nations should conduct their trade policy. For example, should import sectors with weaker comparative advantage be protected more? Conversely, should export sectors with stronger comparative advantage be subsidized less? In this paper we take a first stab at exploring these issues. Our main results imply that in the context of a canonical Ricardian model, optimal import tariffs should be uniform, whereas optimal export subsidies should be weakly decreasing with respect to comparative advantage, reflecting the fact that countries have more room to manipulate prices in their comparative-advantage sectors. Quantitative exercises suggest substantial gains from such policies relative to simpler tax schedules.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19689.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19689.

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Date of creation: Dec 2013
Publication status: published as Arnaud Costinot & Dave Donaldson & Jonathan Vogel & Iván Werning, 2015. "Comparative Advantage and Optimal Trade Policy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(2), pages 659-702.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19689
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  1. Jonathan Eaton & Robert Dekle & Samuel Kortum, 2007. "Unbalanced Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 351-355, May.
  2. Svetlana Demidova & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, 2007. "Trade Policy under Firm-Level Heterogeneity in a Small Economy," NBER Working Papers 13688, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Bagwell,K. & Staiger,R.W., 1998. "An economic theory of GATT," Working papers 15, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  4. Helpman, Elhanan, 2013. "Foreign Trade and Investment: Firm-level Perspectives," Scholarly Articles 25586657, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Marc J. Melitz & Stephen J. Redding, 2013. "Firm Heterogeneity and Aggregate Welfare," Sciences Po Economics Discussion Papers 2013-11, Sciences Po Departement of Economics.
  6. Itoh, Motoshige & Kiyono, Kazuharu, 1987. "Welfare-Enhancing Export Subsidies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(1), pages 115-137, February.
  7. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
  8. Costas Arkolakis & Arnaud Costinot & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 2012. "New Trade Models, Same Old Gains?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 94-130, February.
  9. Krugman, Paul, 1980. "Scale Economies, Product Differentiation, and the Pattern of Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(5), pages 950-959, December.
  10. Gabriel J. Felbermayr & Benjamin Jung & Mario Larch, 2011. "Optimal Tariffs, Retaliation and the Welfare Loss from Tariff Wars in the Melitz Model," CESifo Working Paper Series 3474, CESifo Group Munich.
  11. Mill, John Stuart, 1874. "Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, edition 2, number mill1874.
  12. Manuel Amador & Kyle Bagwell, 2013. "The Theory of Optimal Delegation With an Application to Tariff Caps," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(4), pages 1541-1599, 07.
  13. Opp, Marcus M., 2010. "Tariff wars in the Ricardian Model with a continuum of goods," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 212-225, March.
  14. Gros, Daniel, 1987. "A note on the optimal tariff, retaliation and the welfare loss from tariff wars in a framework with intra-industry trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3-4), pages 357-367, November.
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