Clearing customs

Kevin Lewis

January 10, 2018

Protectionist Empire: Trade, Tariffs, and United States Foreign Policy, 1890-1914
Benjamin Fordham
Studies in American Political Development, October 2017, Pages 170-192


Between 1890 and 1914, the United States acquired overseas colonies, built a battleship fleet, and intervened increasingly often in Latin America and East Asia. This activism is often seen as the precursor to the country's role as a superpower after 1945 but actually served very different goals. In contrast to its pursuit of a relatively liberal international economic order after 1945, the United States remained committed to trade protection before 1914. Protectionism had several important consequences for American foreign policy on both economic and security issues. It led to a focus on less developed areas of the world that would not export manufactured goods to the United States instead of on wealthier European markets. It limited the tactics available for promoting American exports, forcing policymakers to seek exclusive bilateral agreements or unilateral concessions from trading partners instead of multilateral arrangements. It inhibited political cooperation with other major powers and implied an aggressive posture toward these states. The differences between this foreign policy and the one the United States adopted after 1945 underscore the critical importance not just of the search for overseas markets but also of efforts to protect the domestic market.

Political Rhetoric as Trade Barrier: Trump's 'Buy American' Campaign and US Demand for Imports
Jeffrey Kucik & Krzysztof Pelc
University of Arizona Working Paper, November 2017


President Trump broke from decades of Republican support for free trade. Specifically, his brand of economic nationalism encourages US citizens to consume fewer imports and, instead, to "buy American." Surveys show that his rhetoric resonates with voters. But do these attitudes actually affect trade? This paper looks for the "tariff equivalent" effect of Trump's nationalist rhetoric. If voters are increasingly wary of free trade, we should see decreased demand for foreign goods. The observable implication should be declining imports. We test this prediction in the automotive industry -- a large, high-profile industry in which the "foreign vs domestic" distinction is clear. Using monthly imports data for each US state, we test whether Trump's campaign success affected automotive trade. Measuring Trump's political influence and electoral success several ways, we find no correlation between his "buy American" message and import flows. Nor is there are an interactive effect with traits of states' economies, including unemployment rates. Our evidence suggests that there's an important difference between sentiment and behavior. Voters claim to be wary of trade, and yet markets appear to be behaving normally. Our evidence is consistent with existing work that casts doubt on the impact of boycotts and nationalist rhetoric.

Investment Responses to Trade Liberalization: Evidence from U.S. Industries and Plants
Justin Pierce & Peter Schott
NBER Working Paper, November 2017


This paper examines the effect of a change in U.S. trade policy on the domestic investment of U.S. manufacturers. Using a difference-in-differences identification strategy, we find that industries more exposed to reductions in import tariff uncertainty exhibit relative declines in investment after the change in trade policy. Within industries, we find that this relationship is concentrated among establishments with low initial levels of labor productivity, capital intensity and skill intensity. Plants with high initial levels of skill intensity, by contrast, exhibit relative increases in investment with exposure. We also find evidence that establishments' investment activity is smoother following the policy change.

Backfiring with Backhaul Problems: Trade and Industrial Policies with Endogenous Transport Costs
Jota Ishikawa & Nori Tarui
Journal of International Economics, forthcoming


Trade barriers due to transport costs are as large as those due to tariffs. This paper incorporates the transport sector into a standard model of international trade and studies the effects of trade and industrial policies. Transport firms need to commit to a shipping capacity sufficient for a round trip, with a possible imbalance of shipping volumes in two directions. This imbalance is known as the "backhaul problem." As transport firms attempt to avoid this problem, a tariff in one sector may affect other independent import and/or export sectors. In particular, domestic tariffs may backfire: domestic exports may also decrease, harming domestic export sectors and the domestic economy. This finding contributes to the literature on how import liberalization may generate a positive effect on the liberalizing country's exports by identifying a new channel through endogenous changes in transport costs given the backhaul problem.

Market size in globalization
Hayato Kato & Toshihiro Okubo
Journal of International Economics, March 2018, Pages 34-60


A salient feature of the current globalization is a loss of manufacturing in developed countries and rapid industrialization in middle-sized developing countries. This paper aims to construct a simple three-country trade and geography model with different market sizes and non-constant wage rates. The large country fosters industrial agglomeration (geographical concentration) in the early stage of globalization, but loses manufacturing in the later stage of globalization. When losing manufacturing, the large country might be worse off. Thus, the large country might have an incentive to implement welfare-maintaining policies to prevent a loss of manufacturing. All of these results can be explained by market sizes.

US Exports and Employment
Robert Feenstra, Hong Ma & Yuan Xu
NBER Working Paper, November 2017


We examine the employment responses to import competition from China and to global export expansion from the United States, both of which have been expanding strongly during the past decades. We find that although Chinese imports reduce jobs, at both the industry level and the local commuting zone level, the global export expansion of US products also creates a considerable number of jobs. On balance over the entire 1991-2007 period, job gains due to changes in US global exports were slightly less than job losses due to Chinese imports. Using data at both the industry level and the commuting zone level, we find a net loss of around 0.2-0.3 million jobs. When we extend the analysis to 1991-2011, we find the net job effect of import and export exposure is roughly balanced at the commuting zone level.

The 'China Shock', Exports and U.S. Employment: A Global Input-Output Analysis
Robert Feenstra & Akira Sasahara
NBER Working Paper, November 2017


We quantify the impact on U.S. employment from imports and exports during 1995-2011, using the World Input-Output Database. We find that the growth in U.S. exports led to increased demand for 2 million jobs in manufacturing, 0.5 million in resource industries, and a remarkable 4.1 million jobs in services, totaling 6.6 million. One-third of those service sector jobs are due to the intermediate demand from merchandise (manufacturing and resource) exports, so the total labor demand gain due to merchandise exports was 3.7 million jobs. In comparison, U.S. merchandise imports from China led to reduced demand of 1.4 million jobs in manufacturing and 0.6 million in services (with small losses in resource industries), with total job losses of 2.0 million. It follows that the expansion in U.S. merchandise exports to the world relative to imports from China over 1995-2011 created net demand for about 1.7 million jobs. Comparing the growth of U.S. merchandise exports to merchandise imports from all countries, we find a fall in net labor demand due to trade, but comparing the growth of total U.S. exports to total imports from all countries, then there is a rise in net labor demand because of the growth in service exports.

The Rise of Exporting By U.S. Firms
William Lincoln & Andrew McCallum
European Economic Review, forthcoming


Although a great deal of ink has been spilled over the consequences of globalization, we do not yet fully understand the causes of increased worldwide trade. Using confidential microdata from the U.S. Census, we document widespread entry into countries abroad by U.S. firms from 1987 to 2006. We show that this extensive margin growth is unlikely to have been due to significant declines in entry costs. We instead find evidence of large roles for telecommunications advances, trade agreements, and foreign income growth in driving these trends.

Politicized trade: What drives withdrawal of trade preferences?
Martin Gassebner & Arevik Gnutzmann-Mkrtchyan
Economics Letters, forthcoming


While it is well understood that industrialized countries use aid to grant political favors, little research covers alternative channels such as trade policy towards developing countries. We analyze eligibility investigations and revoking of U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits to see whether political friends of the U.S. receive favorable treatment. While countries politically aligned with the U.S. are equally likely to be investigated, they are significantly less likely to have their benefits suspended.

U.S. Free Trade Agreements and Enforcement of Labor Law in Latin America
Sabina Dewan & Lucas Ronconi
Industrial Relations, January 2018, Pages 35-56


The paper provides difference-in-differences estimates suggesting that Latin American countries that signed a free trade agreement with the United States experienced an increase in the number of labor inspectors and inspections. We also find large heterogeneity across signers and no evidence that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had a positive impact on Mexico. We conclude by suggesting that the stringency of content of the accord and the resources devoted by the U.S. government to increase enforcement make a difference.

Whence the Beef: The Effect of Repealing Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Using a Vertically Integrated Armington Model with Monte Carlo Simulation
Ross Hallren & Alexandra Opanasets
Southern Economic Journal, forthcoming


Increasingly, international trade policy analysis explores the economic effects of changes in ad-valorem tariffs or equivalent nontariff measures on vertically integrated markets for which high quality data are unavailable. Standard Constant Elasticity of Substitution (CES) Armington models fail to account for either vertical linkages or parameter uncertainty. Here, we introduce a vertically integrated, nested two-sector Armington model that incorporates uncertainty in the estimates of Armington elasticities through Monte Carlo simulation. As an illustrative case, we model the effects of changes in country of origin labeling (COOL) rules on the market shares of cattle in the U.S. beef market. By accounting for parameter uncertainty in this way, we are able to estimate the distribution of potential effects of repealing mandatory COOL. Ultimately, we predict that, in all but the most extreme cases, Mexico and Canada would not gain as much market share from the repeal of mandatory COOL as they claim in their World Trade Organization (WTO) filings against the regulation.

Nonstate Actors and Compliance with International Agreements: An Empirical Analysis of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention
Nathan Jensen & Edmund Malesky
International Organization, forthcoming


International relations scholarship has made great progress on the study of compliance with international agreements. While persuasive, most of this work has focused on states' de jure compliance decisions, largely excluding the de facto behavior of nonstate actors whose actions the agreement hopes to constrain. Of particular interest has been whether the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (ABC) might reduce the propensity of multinational corporations (MNCs) to bribe officials in host countries through its mechanisms of extraterritoriality and extensive peer review. Unfortunately, research is hampered by reporting bias. Since the convention raises the probability of investors' punishment for bribery in their home countries, it reduces both the incentives for bribery and willingness to admit to the activity. This generates uncertainty over which of these incentives drives any correlation between signing the convention and reductions in reported bribery. We address this problem by employing a specialized survey experiment that shields respondents and reduces reporting bias. We find that after the onset of Phase 3 in 2010, when the risk of noncompliance increased for firms subject to the OECD-ABC, those MNCs reduced their actual bribery relative to their nonsignatory competitors.

Long-Range Growth: Economic Development in the Global Network of Air Links
Filipe Campante & David Yanagizawa-Drott
Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming


We study the impact of international long-distance flights on the global spatial allocation of economic activity. To identify causal effects, we exploit variation due to regulatory and technological constraints which give rise to a discontinuity in connectedness between cities at a distance of 6,000 miles. We show that improving an airport's position in the network of air links has a positive effect on local economic activity, as captured by satellite-measured night lights. We find that air links increase business links, showing that the movement of people fosters the movement of capital. In particular, this is driven mostly by capital flowing from high-income to middle-income (but not low-income) countries. Taken together, our results suggest that increasing interconnectedness induces links between businesses and generates economic activity at the local level, but also gives rise to increased spatial inequality locally, and potentially globally.

Upstream, Downstream: Diffusion and Impacts of the Universal Product Code
Emek Basker & Timothy Simcoe
NBER Working Paper, November 2017


This paper matches archival data from the Uniform Code Council to establishments in the Longitudinal Business Database and Economic Census to study the diffusion and impacts of the Universal Product Code (UPC). We find evidence of network effects in the diffusion process. Matched-sample difference-in-difference estimates show that employment and trademark registrations increase following UPC adoption by manufacturers or wholesalers. Industry-level imports also increase with domestic UPC adoption. Our findings suggest that barcodes, scanning and related technologies helped stimulate variety-enhancing product innovation and encourage the growth of international retail supply chains.


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