This paper investigates the impact of customs unions (CUs) on the ability of countries to multilaterally cooperate within an economic environment characterized by trade-flow volatility. We find that the initiation of CU talks results in an easing of multilateral trade tensions, especially with regard to the employment of special-protection instruments, such as anti-dumping duties or safeguards. However, once the CU agreements come into force, a retreat to a more protectionist trading environment becomes necessary so that multilateral cooperation does not break down. Interestingly, in comparison with the pre-CU world, the utilization of special-protection tools in the post-CU world is more severe for high import volumes, but is less frequent overall. Moreover, normal protection remains low, largely unchanged from the pre-CU era.
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