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The Roots of Latin American Protectionism: Looking Before the Great Depression

  • John H. Coatsworth
  • Jeffrey G. Williamson

This paper uncovers a fact that has not been well appreciated: tariffs in Latin America were far higher than anywhere else in the century before the Great Depression. This is a surprising fact given that this region has been said to have exploited globalization forces better than most during the pre-1914 belle epoque and for which the Great Depression has always been viewed as a critical policy turning point towards protection and de-linking from the world economy. This paper shows that the explanation cannot lie with output gains from protection, since, while such gains were present in Europe and its non-Latin offshoots, they were not present in Latin America. The paper then explores Latin American tariffs as a revenue source, as a protective device for special interests, and as the result of other political economy struggles. We conclude by asking whether the same pro-protection conditions exist today as those which existed more than a century ago.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8999.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8999.

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Date of creation: Jun 2002
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Publication status: published as Estevadeordal, A., D. Rodrik, A. Taylor and A. Velasco (eds.) INTEGRATING THE AMERICAS: FTAA AND BEYOND. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8999
Note: DAE ITI LS
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  1. Irwin, Douglas A, 1988. "Welfare Effects of British Free Trade: Debate and Evidence from the 1840s," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(6), pages 1142-64, December.
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