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The near-equivalence of tariffs and quotas

  • James Lake


    (Southern Methodist University)

  • Maia K. Linask


    (University of Richmond)

Registered author(s):

    When governments impose a quota or tariff on imports, it is well known that the resulting rents and revenues trigger costly rent-seeking and revenue-seeking activities, which are welfare-reducing and may be economically more significant than the efficiency losses resulting from the quota/tariff-induced resource reallocation. Repeated interaction among firms can eliminate wasteful rent- and revenue-seeking expenditures through cooperation. We show that while aggregate outcomes are equivalent under tariffs and quotas if cooperation arises, the conditions under which cooperation arises differ by policy. This difference arises because a firm must incur additional cost to physically import and distribute the goods associated with additional quota licenses, whereas there is no such cost when it comes to consuming additional tariff revenue. Thus, we say that quotas and tariffs are only near-equivalent. We provide a simple sufficient condition under which cooperative elimination of rent-seeking under quotas is easier than cooperative elimination of revenue-seeking under tariffs and therefore a quota is the optimal policy whenever the optimal policy admits cooperation.

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    Paper provided by Southern Methodist University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 1305.

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    Date of creation: Jun 2013
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:smu:ecowpa:1305
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    Department of Economics, P.O. Box 750496, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275-0496

    Phone: 214-768-2715
    Fax: 214-768-1821
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