Pablo Fajgelbaum, Pinelopi Goldberg, Patrick Kennedy, Amit Khandelwal, 11 April 2019

The 2018 tariff hikes reversed a decades-long push by the US for lower global trade barriers around the world. This column examines the impact of the resulting trade war on the US economy. It estimates a $68.8 billion annual loss to US consumers and firms from higher import prices, with an aggregate annual loss of $7.8 billion when producer gains and tariff revenues are factored in. It also argues that US tariffs protected politically competitive counties, whereas retaliations by other nations targeted strongly Republican counties.

Yasuyuki Todo, 27 February 2019

Davide Furceri, Swarnali Ahmed Hannan, Jonathan D. Ostry, Andrew Rose, 27 February 2019

It seems an appropriate time to study what, if any, have been the macroeconomic consequences of tariffs in practice. Using a straightforward methodology to estimate flexible impulse response functions, and data that span several decades and 151 countries, this column finds that tariff increases have, on average, engendered adverse macroeconomic and distributional consequences: a fall in output and labour productivity, higher unemployment, higher inequality, and negligible effects on the trade balance (likely owing to real exchange rate appreciation when tariffs rise). The aversion of the economics profession to the deadweight loss caused by protectionism seems warranted.

Raphael Auer, Barthélémy Bonadio, Andrei Levchenko, 07 February 2019

The tide has turned in international trade, with watershed political moments across the world showing the growing popularity of protectionist measures. This column analyses the relationship between the distributional effects of trade and voting patterns by modelling a scenario in which NAFTA is dismantled. It finds that the areas that voted most overwhelmingly for the Trump administration are the same as those that would experience the greatest wage decreases if NAFTA were to be revoked, due to the strong correlation in areas that face import competition from and export exposure to NAFTA partners.

Ufuk Akcigit, 23 November 2018

Firms like to be politically connected, because it makes it easier for them to do business. But is it good for the rest of us? Ufuk Akcigit of the University of Chicago tells Tim Phillips about the consequences of connecting to power.

Chad Bown, 30 October 2018

President Trump’s protectionism has a distinctive focus on disrupting US access to global supply chains. This column reveals that the major economies had in fact begun to impose additional trade protection on intermediate inputs even prior to 2016. New barriers targeting cross-border supply chains simply arose through policies aside from headline tariffs. Some of this new protection has also already spread beyond China’s trade and begun to cover exports from other countries. These results, combined with more recent policy actions, widen the possibility of a negative protectionist impact on the global sourcing of parts and components.

Menzie Chinn, 08 October 2018

Costas Arkolakis, Natalia Ramondo, Andres Rodríguez-Clare, Stephen Yeaple, 08 October 2018

One consequence of the last decades of globalisation is that, thanks to multinational firms, goods are increasingly being produced far from where ideas are created. Using general equilibrium modelling, this column analyses the welfare and distributional effects of the recent wave of protectionism. Central to the results is the flexibility that multinational firms have in locating their innovation and production activities around the globe.

Banri Ito, 01 September 2018

With protectionism on the rise around the world, the question of why politicians often call for protectionist trade policies in their election campiagnsis becoming more important than ever. This column introduces empirical evidence from Japan to show that politicians from constituencies facing a substantial increase in imports, and therefore stronger electoral pressure, are more likely to advocate protectionist trade policies.

Alessandro Barattieri, Matteo Cacciatore, Fabio Ghironi, 10 August 2018

Populist politicians argue that protectionism stimulates the domestic economy. This column uses data on temporary trade barriers from antidumping investigations to show that when small open economies have imposed protectionist measures, it has caused inflation to rise and real economic activity to fall. Empirical analysis and model-based exercises show that protectionism is costly even when used temporarily, even for economies stuck in liquidity traps, and regardless of the flexibility of the exchange rate.

Ufuk Akcigit, Sina T. Ates, Giammario Impullitti, 02 July 2018

The optimal set of industrial policies to tackle increased competition from global technological rivals is once again the centre of a heated debate, with protectionist policies now gaining traction. Drawing on US experience three decades ago, this column examines the effects of import tariffs and R&D subsidies on domestic firms’ global competitiveness, aggregate growth, and welfare. It argues that import tariffs generate large dynamic productivity losses and may enhance welfare only for a short time horizon and when trading partners do not retaliate. By contrast, R&D subsidies stimulate domestic innovation and increase welfare, especially over longer time horizons, without jeopardising the gains from trade. 

Jeffrey Frankel, 27 June 2018

Saileshsingh Gunessee, Chris Milner, Zhaohui Niu, 19 June 2018

Trade liberalisation is expected to have ushered in an era of increased globalisation. This column uses a measure of overall trade protection comprising tariff-equivalent non-tariff measures and tariffs to examine whether protectionism has fallen or increased over the past two decades. The results suggest that overall protection levels have not decreased despite tariff liberalisation, as non-tariff measures have proliferated both across sectors and countries. These measures are now the main source of trade protection.

Nikolaus Wolf, 11 June 2018

Jerónimo Carballo, Kyle Handley, Nuno Limão, 16 March 2018

Economic downturns can be both a cause and an effect of uncertainty. This column argues that uncertainty has international spillovers that can be mitigated via credible international trade agreements such as NAFTA, which provided US firms with valuable insurance against the widespread threat of a global trade war during the 2008 crisis. However, the credibility and insurance value of these agreements is being trumped by events such as Brexit, the renegotiation of NAFTA, and US threats of a trade war, which mark the start of a ‘trade cold war’.

Simon Evenett, Johannes Fritz, 12 December 2017

The focus of much of the literature on the trade impact of crisis-era protectionism on import restrictions is misplaced. This column introduces the latest Global Trade Alert report, which shows that while import restrictions played their part in holding back European exporters, trade-distorting subsidies were more important.

Gabriel Felbermayr, Marina Steininger, Erdal Yalcin, 22 November 2017

The Trump administration intends to restructure US international trade relations with its major trade partners to correct what it perceives to be unfair trade and establish a ‘level playing field’. This column uses a structurally estimated and simulated trade model to analyse three potential protectionist policies that have been discussed by the administration. The results suggest that the promise to create more jobs and investment in the US through such policies is a fallacy.

Wilhelm Kohler, Gernot Müller, 08 November 2017

The EU’s position in the Brexit negotiations is based on the premise that the four freedoms of the single market – goods, capital, services, and labour – are indivisible. This column argues that this indivisibility claim has no economic foundations, and that negotiating on this premise risks unnecessary harm. Reintroducing trade barriers will inflict damage on both sides of the Channel. The possibility that abandoning indivisibility may cause harm through cherry picking, or through potential further exits, doesn’t justify a hard Brexit scenario.

Antoine Bouët, David Laborde, 06 September 2017

During his election campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly announced that he would impose tariffs on imports from China, Mexico, and Germany. This column evaluates the likely outcomes should the US instigate trade wars by imposing such tariffs. In all scenarios, the net effect on US welfare and GDP is either zero or negative. Such trade wars would also have wider negative effects for the trading partners, and potentially, the world economy.

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