Free trade agreements and the environment with pre-existing subsidies
Countries that wish to erect trade barriers have a variety of instruments at their disposal. In addition to tariffs and quotas, countries can offer tax relief, low interest financing, reduced regulation ,and other subsidies to domestic industries facing foreign competition. In a trade agreement, countries typically agree to reduce not only tariffs, but also subsidies. We consider the effect of a trade agreement on pollution emissions. We show that while reducing tariffs may indeed increase pollution intensive production in a country, reductions in some subsidies required by the trade agreement reduce pollution in general equilibrium for reasonable parameter values. The reduction results from two effects. First, a reduction in subsidies to firms reduces pollution-causing capital accumulation. Second, if subsidized firms, industries, and/or state owned enterprises are sufficiently more pollution intensive, then reducing subsidies moves capital and labor from more to less pollution intensive firms. We calibrate the model to the case of China and show that pollution emissions after China's accession to the WTO are up to 22.9 percent lower than a baseline in which China does not enter the WTO, without any pollution abatement policy changes or environmental side agreements.
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