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Taking Stock of Trade Policy Uncertainty: Evidence from China’s Pre-WTO Accession

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  • George A. Alessandria
  • Shafaat Y. Khan
  • Armen Khederlarian

Abstract

We study the effects on trade from the annual tariff uncertainty about China’s MFN status renewal prior to joining the WTO. We have three main findings. First, counter to the evidence elsewhere, trade increases strongly in anticipation of uncertain future increases in tariffs. Second, even though the trade response can be quite large, the probability of a tariff increase was perceived to be relatively small, with an average annual probability of non-renewal of about 5.5 percent. And third, what matters more is the expected future tariff rather than the uncertainty around it. We identify these effects using within-year variation in the risk of trade policy changes around the renewal vote and trade flows. We show that an (s,s) inventory model generates this behavior and that variation in the strength of the stockpiling in advance of the vote is increasing in the storability of goods. The model is also consistent with a sizeable fraction of the cross-industry variation in annual trade flows documented elsewhere. Our results explain why trade may hold up well in advance of a prospective policy change such as Brexit or the US escalating tariff war of 2018-19, but may fall off sharply even if expected tariff increases do not materialize.

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  • George A. Alessandria & Shafaat Y. Khan & Armen Khederlarian, 2019. "Taking Stock of Trade Policy Uncertainty: Evidence from China’s Pre-WTO Accession," NBER Working Papers 25965, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25965
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Federico Esposito, 2019. "Demand Risk and Diversification through Trade," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0833, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    2. Hong, T., 2021. "Revisiting the Trade Policy Uncertainty Index," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 2174, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    3. Esposito, Federico, 2020. "Demand Risk and Diversification through International Trade," MPRA Paper 100865, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Federico Esposito & Marcelo Bianconi & Marco Sammon, 2020. "Trade Policy Uncertainty and Stock Returns," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0834, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    5. Paul Ilhak Ko, 2020. "Dissecting Trade and Business Cycle Co-movement," 2020 Papers pko1026, Job Market Papers.
    6. Marcelo Bianconi & Federico Esposito & Marco Sammon, 2019. "Trade Policy Uncertainty and Stock Returns," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0830, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    7. Beshkar, Mostafa & Shourideh, Ali, 2020. "Optimal trade policy with trade imbalances," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 65-82.
    8. Khan, Shafaat Yar & Khederlarian, Armen, 2021. "How does trade respond to anticipated tariff changes? Evidence from NAFTA," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 133(C).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade

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