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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy

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Protection and the Business Cycle

Kyle Bagwell
  • 1Columbia University,
/ Robert W. Staiger
  • 2University of Wisconsin, Madison,
Published Online: 2003-09-24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2202/1538-0637.1139


Empirical studies have repeatedly documented the countercyclical nature of trade barriers. In this paper, we propose a simple theoretical framework that is consistent with this and other empirical regularities in the relationship between protection and the business cycle. Focusing on self-enforcing trade agreements, we find theoretical support for countercyclical movements in protection levels. The fast growth in trade volume that is associated with a boom phase facilitates the maintenance of more liberal trade policies than can be sustained during a recession phase in which growth is slow. We also find that acyclic increases in the level of trade volume give rise to protection, implying that whether rising imports are met with greater liberalization or increased protection depends on whether they are part of a cyclic upward trend in trade volume or an acyclic increase in import levels.

Keywords: Protection; Business Cycle; GATT; WTO; Repeated Game

Published Online: 2003-09-24

Citation Information: Advances in Economic Analysis & Policy. Volume 3, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 1538-0637, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2202/1538-0637.1139, September 2003

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