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Tariffs, Employment and the Current Account: Real Wage Resistance and the Macroeconomics of Protectionism

  • Sweder van Wijnbergen

Using a standard complete specialization model of a small open economy within a rigorous intertemporal optimization framework with contract- based wage rigidity, we show that permanent tariffs may lead to a current account deterioration and a fall in employment, contradicting most of the literature of macro-economic effects of import tariffs. I show that this will always be the case if the economy is small enough. The crucial factor in this complete reversal of standard results is the impact of tariffs on domestic real product wages via wage indexation. Temporary tariffs will have less of a negative impact on the CA or potentially even a positive impact, because they increase the consumption rate of interest (the terms at which future consumption can be traded for current consumption) and so increase private savings. Extensions towards incorporating a more general production structure, investment and the use of tariff revenues to provide wage subsidies are presented.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w2261.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2261.

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Date of creation: May 1987
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as International Economic Review, Vol. 28, no. 3 (1987): 691-706.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2261
Note: ITI IFM
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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Web page: http://www.nber.org
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  1. Mussa, Michael, 1974. "A Monetary Approach to Balance-of-Payments Analysis," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 6(3), pages 333-51, August.
  2. Lloyd A. Metzler, 1949. "Tariffs, the Terms of Trade, and the Distribution of National Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57, pages 1.
  3. Mussa, Michael, 1974. "Tariffs and the Distribution of Income: The Importance of Factor Specificity, Substitutability, and Intensity in the Short and Long Run," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1191-1203, Nov.-Dec..
  4. Russell S. Boyer, 1977. "Commercial Policy under Alternative Exchange Rate Regimes," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 10(2), pages 218-32, May.
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