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A Theory of Gradual Trade Liberalization

  • Robert Staiger

    (University of Wisconsin)

This paper proposes a theory of gradual trade liberalization. I consider countries that are limited to self-enforcing arrangements in their trade relations. I argue that enforcement problems associated with the maintenance of low cooperative tariffs are exacerbated by the presence of resources in the import-competing sector that are (or potentially could be) earning rents from their sector-specific skills. Intuitively, by being able to transform into rents a portion of what otherwise would be dead weight loss under a tariff hike, the presence of such resources makes deviation from a low cooperative tariff to a high tariff more desirable for the deviating country, and makes punishments under reciprocally high tariffs less painful. Hence, the presence of rent-collecting resources in an import-competing sector acts as a deterrent to trade liberalization. But if an initial "round" of liberalization can induce at least a portion of these resources in the import-competing sector to relocate to the rest of the economy, and if by not using their sector- specific skills these resources stand to lose them, then the enforcement issues associated with their presence will also diminish over time, and further rounds of liberalization are made possible by the effects of the initial round. I formalize this gradual process of trade liberalization, and explore the consequences of a failed round of liberalization for the ability to maintain current levels of cooperation.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series International Trade with number 9410003.

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Date of creation: 19 Oct 1994
Date of revision: 21 Oct 1994
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpit:9410003
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://128.118.178.162

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  1. Dewatripont, M & Roland, G, 1992. "Economic Reform and Dynamic Political Constraints," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(4), pages 703-30, October.
  2. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1988. "A Theory of Managed Trade," NBER Working Papers 2756, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1993. "Miltilateral Tariff Cooperation During the Formation of Customs Unions," Discussion Papers 1070, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  4. Devereux, Michael B, 1997. "Growth, Specialization, and Trade Liberalization," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 38(3), pages 565-85, August.
  5. Bagwell, Kyle & Staiger, Robert W, 1997. "Multilateral Tariff Cooperation during the Formation of Free Trade Areas," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 38(2), pages 291-319, May.
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