With Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, tariffs and exchange rates are back at the centre stage of policy debates. This column revisits the assumptions economists make when estimating how tariffs and exchange rates affect exporters’ performance. It argues that the elasticity of firm-level exports to firm-level export prices is an important factor that should be taken into account. Using French firm-level data, it finds that exporters react even more strongly to firm-level electricity cost shocks than to tariff or exchange rate shocks.
Lionel Fontagné, Philippe Martin, Gianluca Orefice, 07 April 2017
Doireann Fitzgerald, Stefanie Haller, Yaniv Yedid-Levi, 25 March 2017
Tariffs across the world may be set to increase for the first time in generations, but the impact of this on trade will depend on the way in which exporters and potential exporters make decisions. Using data on Ireland's manufacturing exports, this column describes how the evolution of quantities and prices for export entrants suggests an important role for the customer base in explaining exporter behaviour.
Alan de Bromhead, Alan Fernihough, Markus Lampe, Kevin O'Rourke, 24 March 2017
With Brexit looming, and protectionist pressures mounting elsewhere in the developed world, the question of whether trade policy matters is taking on more significance. This column looks at the extent to which trade policy was responsible for the shift towards intra-imperial trade in the interwar period. Both tariffs and quotas increased the Empire’s share of British trade, suggesting that trade policy mattered more for interwar trade patterns than the cliometric literature has suggested.
Kazunobu Hayakawa, Shujiro Urata, Taiyo Yoshimi, 08 March 2017
The emergence of mega-regional trade agreements is likely to complicate the trading environment as the ‘noodle bowl’ of overlapping trade agreements gets bigger. This column argues that when multiple preferential tariff schemes are available, exporters' choice of scheme depends on the coverage of products, the extent of tariff reduction, and the ease of complying with rules of origin. These dimensions should all be taken into account when designing mega-regional trade agreements to encourage their utilisation.
Jota Ishikawa, Nori Tarui, 11 February 2017
For models of international trade to accurately represent the real-world costs, transport costs cannot be ignored. This column argues that, additionally, we cannot assume that transport costs are symmetrical, because of a backhaul capacity problem that constrains international shipping. Domestic tariffs, which benefit the domestic import sector and harm the foreign export sector in standard models of international trade, can also harm the domestic export sector and benefit the foreign import sector.
Meredith Crowley, Huasheng Song, Ning Meng, 10 February 2017
The Trump administration’s announcement of its intention to impose a 20% tax on goods imported from Mexico and its calls for a 45% import tariff on goods from China have alarmed businesses and consumers alike. This column uses data on the foreign market entry decisions of Chinese firms to assess the impact that tariff scares and trade policy uncertainty have on trade flows. The evidence suggests that Trump's threats to raise tariffs can reduce US imports even if the administration doesn't follow through with the threatened tax increases.
Jason Furman, Katheryn Russ, Jay Shambaugh, 12 January 2017
Tariffs – taxes on imported goods – likely impose a heavier burden on lower-income households, as these households generally spend more on traded goods as a share of expenditure/income and because of the higher level of tariffs placed on some key consumer goods. This column estimates the tariff burden by income group and by family structure using a new dataset constructed by matching of granular data on trade and consumer spending. The findings suggest that tariffs function as a regressive tax that weighs most heavily on women and single parents.
Aksel Erbahar, Yuan Zi, 10 October 2016
With the US presidential debates, talk of trade protectionism is on the rise. This is worrisome for economists, who generally argue that protection hurts consumers by raising final good prices, particularly in a world with increasingly integrated global value chains. This column presents new evidence for ‘cascading protection’, showing that US protection of inputs has increased the probability of petitions for protection by their downstream users.
Hylke Vandenbussche, Christian Viegelahn, 02 October 2016
In a world where production is increasingly fragmented across borders, a large number of firms import their raw material inputs from abroad. This column investigates how firms’ input and output choices are affected by import tariffs on inputs that domestic firms use in production. Based on firm-product level data for India, it finds that firms decrease their use of inputs subject to the tariff, relative to other inputs. Firms also decrease their sales of outputs made of these inputs, relative to other outputs.
Gary Hufbauer, Euijin Jung, 29 September 2016
Donald Trump has consistently made headlines with unusual and potentially dangerous economic policy proposals, including threatening to pull out of the WTO, renegotiating trade agreements, and imposing tariffs on imports from Mexico and China. This column explores the legal and economic dimensions of these proposals. Old and modern legal statutes could allow a US president to implement such policies, and the repercussions for the US economy could be severely negative.
Chad Bown, Meredith Crowley, 05 June 2016
Free trade is under fire in nations across the world. This column surveys evidence on the importance of trade barriers. There is substantial variation in applied trade policy across countries, industries, and their trading partners, both cross-sectionally and over time. The variation found in these newly available and increasingly detailed databases offer researchers the opportunity to analyse and better understand firm-level trade, aggregate trade, and the shock to the world economy precipitated by China’s phenomenal export growth.
Chad Bown, Douglas Irwin, 19 December 2015
Accurately establishing the GATT’s starting point is important for assessments of its contributions to the post-war trading system, on which much of contemporary trade policy continues to be based. However, a frequently cited statistic is that average tariffs immediately prior to the first GATT negotiations in Geneva in 1947 were at or above 40%. This column largely debunks the 40% myth and suggests that average tariffs in 1947 were around 22%.
Kozo Kiyota, Tetsuji Okazaki, 06 January 2014
The presumed success of Japanese post-war industrial policy has been used to advocate similar policies in other countries. Key to such arguments then is the empirical demonstration of the policies’ effects. This column presents research making use of a novel dataset that allows controlling for industry heterogeneity across many disaggregated industries. The effects of the quota removal on productivity were significantly positive, while the effects of tariffs on labour productivity were insignificant.
Lawrence Edwards, Robert Lawrence, 20 November 2013
Preferential import policies that allow developing markets to export to advanced economies are intended to dynamically promote development rather than just provide basic gains from trade. This column argues that the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act achieves the latter but not the former, distorting incentives along the value-added chain. While beneficial, preferential trade deals are not a panacea and are certainly not a replacement for pro-development policies.
Matthias Helble, Ganeshan Wignaraja, 13 November 2013
Intensifying negotiations leading to the December WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali have renewed optimism for concluding the beleaguered Doha Round and boosting Asia’s trade. Agreement in Bali on tariff-quota administration, trade facilitation, and food security would improve the prospects for a Doha deal and WTO credibility. Failure at Bali, however, would spur the rise of mega-regional trade agreements – to the detriment of countries outside these agreements.
Hylke Vandenbussche, Jozef Konings, 30 January 2013
The rise of international production sharing – ‘global value chains’ – has transformed international commerce and pushed economists into new territory. This column argues that there is evidence to suggest that old-fashioned protection can have an unexpected negative effect on firms that are part of a global value chain. In an increasingly globalised world, exporters’ success seems to positively depend on the free entry of imports rather than the other way round.
Vera Thorstensen, Lucas Ferraz, Emerson Marçal, 04 December 2011
Persistent exchange-rate misalignments have created trade frictions worldwide. This column argues that the WTO should adopt trade rules that allow nations to neutralise the effects of exchange-rate misalignments. Otherwise, the WTO might become a diplomatic-juridical fiction.
Kishore Gawande, Bernard Hoekman, Yue Cui, 10 November 2011
The Great Trade Collapse of 2008–09 did not give rise to rampant protectionism. This column examines the determinants of the observed pattern of trade-policy responses to the 2008 crisis, using data for seven large emerging markets that have a history of active use of trade policy. Vertical specialisation is found to be the most powerful economic factor determining trade-policy responses.
Pushan Dutt, Daniel Traça, 25 June 2009
Would reducing corruption increase trade? While corrupt customs officials extorting bribes from exporters may impede trade, those who take bribes to circumvent formal trade barriers may help it. This column estimates that when tariffs exceed 25%, the pro-trade effects of corruption may dominate.
David Laborde, Antoine Bouët, 14 May 2009
The current financial crisis has fostered a demand for protectionism and put the Doha Round at the back of the agenda. This column argues that a failed Doha Development Agenda would send the wrong signal in terms of global governance and could lead to an unravelling of the past 15 years of trade liberalisation.