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Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 3 No. 4 (Fall 1989)

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The Political Economy of Trade Policy

Article Citation

Baldwin, Robert E. 1989. "The Political Economy of Trade Policy." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 3(4): 119-135.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.3.4.119

Abstract

International trade seems to be a subject where the advice of economists is routinely disregarded. Economists are nearly unanimous in their general opposition to protectionism, but the increase in U.S. protection in recent years in such sectors as automobiles, steel, textiles and apparel, machine tools, footwear and semiconductors demonstrates that economists lack political influence on trade policy. Two broad approaches have been developed to analyze the political economics of trade policy and the processes that generate protectionism. One approach emphasizes the economic self-interest of the political participants, while the other stresses the importance of the broad social concerns of voters and public officials. This paper outlines the nature of the two approaches, indicating how they can explain the above anomalies and other trade policy behavior, and concludes with observations about integrating the two frameworks, conducting further research, and making policy based on the analysis.

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Authors

Baldwin, Robert E. (U Wisc)

JEL Classifications

422: Commercial Policy
411: International Trade Theory--General

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