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Optimal Tariffs: The Evidence

  • Christian Broda
  • N. Limao
  • D. Weinstein


    (Columbia University)

The theoretical debate over whether countries can and should set tariffs in response to export elasticities goes back over a century to the writings of Edgeworth (1894) and Bickerdike (1907). Despite the optimal tariff argument's centrality in debates over trade policy, there exists no evidence about whether countries actually apply it when setting tariffs. We estimate disaggregate export elasticities and find evidence that countries that are not members of the World Trade Organization systematically set higher tariffs on goods that are supplied inelastically. The result is robust to the inclusion of political economy variables and a variety of model specifications. Moreover, we find that countries with higher aggregate market power have on average higher tariffs. In short, we find strong evidence in favor of the optimal tariff argument

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2006 Meeting Papers with number 381.

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Date of creation: 03 Dec 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:red:sed006:381
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Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

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  1. Markusen, James R & Wigle, Randall M, 1989. "Nash Equilibrium Tariffs for the United States and Canada: The Roles of Country Size, Scale Economies, and Capital Mobility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 368-86, April.
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