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Environmental Impacts of a North American Free Trade Agreement

  • Gene M. Grossman
  • Alan B. Krueger

A reduction in trade barriers generally will affect the environment by expanding the scale of economic activity, by altering the composition of economic activity, and by bringing about a change in the techniques of production. We present empirical evidence to assess the relative magnitudes of these three effects as they apply to further trade liberalization in Mexico. In Section 1. we use comparable measures of three air pollutants in a cross-section of urban areas located in 42 countries to study the relationship between air quality and economic growth. We find for two pollutants (sulfur dioxide and "smoke") that concentrations increase with per capita GDP at low levels of national income, but decrease with GD? growth at higher levels of income. Section 2 studies the determinants of the industry pattern of U.S. imports from Mexico and of value added by Mexico's maquiladora sector. We investigate whether the size of pollution abatement costs in the U.S. industry influences the pattern of international trade and investment. Finally, in Section 3, we use the results from a computable general equilibrium model to study the likely compositional effect of a NAFTA on pollution in Mexico.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3914.

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Date of creation: Nov 1991
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as The U.S. Mexico Free Trade Agreement, Peter Garber, ed., MIT Press, 1994
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3914
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.orgEmail:


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  1. Alan B. Krueger & John F. Burton, Jr., 1989. "The Employers' cost of Workers' Compensation Insurance: Magnitudes, Determinants, and Public Policy," NBER Working Papers 3029, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Brown, D.K. & Deardorff, A.V. & Stern, R.M., 1991. "A North American Free Trade Agreement: Analytical Issues and A Computational Assessment," Working Papers 289, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  3. Tobey, James A, 1990. "The Effects of Domestic Environmental Policies on Patterns of World Trade: An Empirical Test," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(2), pages 191-209.
  4. Yohe, Gary W., 1979. "The backward incidence of pollution control--some comparative statics in general equilibrium," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 187-198, September.
  5. Siebert, Horst, 1977. "Environmental Quality and the Gains from Trade," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 30(4), pages 657-73.
  6. Harkness, Jon P, 1978. "Factor Abundance and Comparative Advantage," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(5), pages 784-800, December.
  7. McGuire, Martin C., 1982. "Regulation, factor rewards, and international trade," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 335-354, April.
  8. Siebert, Horst, 1977. "Environmental quality and the gains from trade," Open Access Publications from Kiel Institute for the World Economy 3530, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
  9. John M. Abowd, 1990. "The NBER Immigration, Trade, and Labor Markets Data Files," NBER Working Papers 3351, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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