Research

PUBLICATIONS

Dynamic formation of Preferential Trade Agreements: The role of flexibility. Canadian Journal of Economics (forthcoming).

A trade–off between coordination and flexibility can explain why, in practice, the number of Free Trade Agreements overwhelmingly outweigh the number of Customs Unions. Abstract

In practice, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) outnumber Customs Unions (CUs) by a ratio of 9:1. Nevertheless, the literature traditionally views CUs as optimal for members because CU members coordinate external tariffs. I show that a dynamic FTA flexibility benefit can help explain the prevalence of FTAs: individual FTA members have the flexibility to form their own future FTAs whereas CU members must jointly engage in future CU formation. Under asymmetry, even arbitrarily small degrees thereof, FTAs emerge in equilibrium if and only if the FTA flexibility benefit outweighs the CU coordination benefit. Read more »

Are global trade negotiations behind a fragmented world of "gated globalization"?, with Santanu Roy (Southern Methodist University). Journal of International Economics, 2017, 108, 117-136.

Global tariff negotiations can prevent global free trade precisely because they are successful in lowering global tariffs. Abstract

We show that global trade negotiations can prevent global free trade. In a simple model where global tariff negotiations precede sequential Free Trade Agreement (FTA), we show FTA formation can expand all the way to global free trade in the absence of global tariff negotiations but global free trade never emerges when global tariff negotiations precede FTA formation. This result arises precisely because global tariff negotiations successfully elicit concessions from negotiating countries. Moreover, global tariff negotiations can produce a fragmented world of "gated globalization" where some countries form FTAs eliminating tariff barriers among themselves while outsiders continue facing higher tariffs. Read more »

Free Trade Agreements as dynamic farsighted networks. Economic Inquiry, 2017, 55(1), 31-50.

In the presence of multilateral negotiations, Free Trade Agreements prevent global free trade when there are two larger countries and one smaller country, but Free Trade Agreements are necessary for global free trade when there is one larger country and two smaller countries. Abstract

In the presence of multilateral negotiations, are Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) necessary for, or will they prevent, global free trade? I answer this question using a dynamic farsighted model of network formation among asymmetric countries. Ultimately, FTAs prevent global free trade when there are two larger countries and one smaller country but FTAs can be necessary for global free trade when there are two smaller countries and one larger country. The model provides insights into the dynamics of recent real world negotiations and recent results in the literature on the empirical determinants of trade agreements. Read more »

On the different geographic characteristics of Free Trade Agreements and Customs Unions, with Halis M. Yildiz (Ryerson). Journal of International Economics, 2016, 103, 213-233.

A trade–off between coordination and flexibility can explain why all observed Customs Unions are inter–regional yet Free Trade Agreements are both inter and intra–regional. Abstract

Casual observation reveals a striking phenomenon of Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs): while Customs Unions (CUs) are only intra-regional, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are inter and intra-regional. Using a farsighted dynamic model, we endogenize the equilibrium path of PTAs among two close countries and one far country. Rising transport costs mitigate the cost of discrimination faced by the far country as a CU non-member and diminish the value of preferential access as a CU member. Thus, sufficiently large transport costs imply an FTA is the only type of PTA that can induce the far country's participation in PTA formation. Unlike CU formation, FTA formation can induce participation because FTAs provide a flexibility benefit: an FTA member can form further PTAs with non-members but a CU member must do so jointly with all existing members. Hence, in equilibrium, CUs are intra-regional while FTAs are intra- and inter-regional. Read more »

Could tariffs be pro-cyclical?, with Maia Linask (U of Richmond). Journal of International Economics, 2016, 103, 124-146.

Counter to conventional wisdom, we find applied tariffs are pro-cyclical. Abstract

Conventional wisdom says tariffs are counter-cyclical. We analyze the relationship between business cycles and applied tariffs using a disaggregated product-level panel dataset covering 72 countries between 2000 and 2011. Strikingly, and counter to conventional wisdom, we find that tariffs are pro-cyclical. Further investigation reveals this pro-cylicality is driven by the tariff setting behavior of developing countries; tariffs are acyclical in developed countries. We present evidence that pro-cyclical market power drives the pro-cyclicality of tariffs in developing countries, providing further evidence of the importance of terms of trade motivations in explaining trade policy. Read more »

Domestic political competition and pro-cyclical import protection, with Maia Linask (U of Richmond). Review of International Economics, 2016, 24(3) 564-591.

A dynamic theory of domestic political competition that generates pro-cyclical applied tariffs. Abstract

Governments, especially in developing countries, routinely practice binding overhang (i.e. setting applied tariffs below binding WTO commitments) and frequently move applied tariffs for given products up and down over the business cycle. Moreover, applied tariffs are pro-cyclical in developing countries. We explain this phenomenon using a dynamic theory of lobbying between domestic interest groups. Applied tariffs are pro-cyclical when high-tariff interests (e.g. import-competing industries) capture the government: these groups concede lower tariffs to low-tariff interest groups (e.g. exporting firms or firms using imported inputs) during recessions because recessions lower the opportunity cost of lobbying and thereby generate stronger lobbying threats. Read more »

An empirical analysis of trade–related redistribution and the political viability of free trade, with Dann Millimet (Southern Methodist University). Journal of International Economics, 2016, 99, 156-178.

Congressmen are more likely to vote for free trade agreements (FTAs) when trade–adjustment assistance is more generous in their district, espeically if their district is particularly vulnerable to the FTA or they face significant re-election risk. Abstract

Even if free trade creates net welfare gains for a country as a whole, the associated distributional implications can undermine the political viability of free trade. We show that trade-related redistribution -- as presently constituted -- modestly increases the political viability of free trade in the US. We do so by assessing the causal effect of expected redistribution associated with the US Trade Adjustment Assistance program on US Congressional voting behavior on eleven Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) between 2003 and 2011. We find that a one standard deviation increase in expected redistribution leads to an average increase in the probability of voting in favor of an FTA of 1.8 percentage points. Although this is a modest impact on average, we find significant heterogeneities; in particular, the effect is larger when a representative's constituents are more at risk or the representative faces greater re-election risk. Read more »

Costly distribution and the non–equivalence of tariffs and quotas, with Maia Linask (U of Richmond), Public Choice, 2015, 165(3), 211-238

Cooperative elimination of rent–seeking under quotas is easier to sustain than cooperative elimination of revenue–seeking under tariffs and, in this sense, quotas are welfare superior to tariffs. Abstract

When governments impose a quota or tariff on imports, it is well known that the resulting rents and revenues trigger costly rent-seeking and revenue-seeking activities, which are welfare- reducing and may be economically more significant than the efficiency losses resulting from the quota/tariff-induced resource reallocation. Repeated interaction among firms can eliminate wasteful rent- and revenue-seeking expenditures through cooperation. We show that while aggregate outcomes are equivalent under tariffs and quotas if cooperation arises, the conditions under which cooperation arises differ by policy. This difference arises because a firm must incur additional cost to physically import and distribute the goods associated with additional quota licenses, whereas there is no such cost when it comes to consuming additional tariff revenue. Thus, quotas and tariffs are non-equivalent. We provide a simple sufficient condition under which cooperative elimination of rent-seeking under quotas is easier than cooperative elimination of revenue-seeking under tariffs and therefore a quota is the optimal policy whenever the optimal policy admits cooperation. Read more »

Revisiting the link between PAC contributions and lobbying expenditures, European Journal of Political Economy, 2015, 37, 86–101

A dataset that decomposes an interest group’s contributions to a Congressional representative across issues and decomposes an interest group’s issue–specific lobbying expenditures across Congressional representatives. Abstract

Unfortunately, data on campaign contributions of PACs (political action committees) in the US does not contain the PACs issues of concern. Additionally, while recent US lobbying data details the issues of concern for an interest group, it does not detail the Congressional representatives lobbied by the interest group. Using the 1997–98 Congressional cycle, earlier work showed PACs engaging in lobbying and campaign contributions account for the vast majority of such political money even though they represent a small minority of all PACs. Using an expanded time period, I show this is a systematic feature of the US political system and how it allows construction of a novel dataset that decomposes representative-specific contributions across issues as well as issue-specific lobbying expenditures across representatives. Further, I show this decomposition can qualitatively affect results regarding the relationship between political money and Congressional voting behavior on trade policy. Read more »

WORKING PAPERS

Good jobs, bad jobs: what's trade got to do with it?, with Dann Millimet (Southern Methodist University). Updated October 2017. R&R at Labor Economics.

Routine biased technological change rather than Chinese import competition drives job polarization in US local labor markets. Abstract

Exploiting data on US local labor markets between 1990 and 2010, we analyze the heterogeneous impact of rising import penetration on employment growth of `good' and `bad' jobs. Three salient findings emerge. First, job polarization -- defined as an increase in good and bad jobs and a decrease in middle quality jobs -- occurred over this time period in US local labor markets, but is not due to local trade exposure. Instead, local exposure to routine-biased technological change (RBTC) is found to be the primary catalyst. Second, rising local exposure to import penetration reduces employment growth across the entire job quality distribution. However, the advserve effects of import penetration are more pronounced for both good and bad jobs. Thus, trade exposure is found to have an anti-polarization effect. Finally, local employment growth across the job quality distribution is driven by local exposure, rather than occupation-specific exposure, to RBTC and import competition. Read more »

Contesting an International Trade Agreement, with Matt Cole (Cal Poly) and Ben Zissimos (U of Exter) Updated June 2017.

A new political economy framework that models conflicting lobbying interests and inherent uncertainty surrounding Trade Agreement ratification. Abstract

After governments sign an international trade agreement (TA), each government must ratify the TA. Often, this ratification process is lengthy and the outcome highly uncertain. We model a two-country TA where, unlike prior literature, pro-trade and anti-trade interest groups in each country recognize that (i) TA implementation requires ratification by both governments and (ii) they cannot condition contributions on their government's ratification decision. In this new class of contests, which we call `parallel contests', we show that (i) anti- and pro-trade lobbies lobby in equilibrium, (ii) the probability of TA ratification lends itself to intuitive and tractable comparative statics, and (iii) the protection embodied in negotiated TA tariffs reflects a tension between the liberalizing force of lobbying and inherently protectionist government preferences. Read more »

Heterogeneous job polarization in the US, with Dann Millimet (Southern Methodist University). Updated September 2015.

While job polarization characterizes US non-tradable and tradable service sectors, anti-job polarization characterizes the US tradable goods sector. Abstract

We investigate job polarization in the US. Significant heterogeneity is found across sectors, with the tradable goods sector exhibiting anti-polarization. This is consistent with the theoretical trade model of Grossman and Maggi (2000). Read more »

Dynamic farsighted networks with endogenous opportunities of link formation. Updated July 2014.

The complete network may not obtain when endogenously determining which players form a link in a given period even though the complete network arises when pairs of players are randomly selected to form a link in each period. Abstract

I present a three player dynamic network theoretic model where players are farsighted and asymmetric. Unlike the previous literature that imposes an exogenous protocol governing the order of negotiations, I allow the identity of the players who form a link in a given period to depend endogenously on player characteristics. Importantly, I show how this can give different predictions regarding attainment of the complete network relative to models with an exogenous protocol. Regardless of whether the complete network is efficient, a key dynamic trade off drives whether the complete network is attained in my model. A pair of players (insiders) may form a link with each other but, even though link formation is always myopically bene.cial, each insider then refuses subsequent link formation with the third player (outsider) because the eventual attainment of the complete network makes each insider worse off relative to the insider–outsider network. Read more »

WORK IN PROGRESS

Phase out tariffs, phase in trade?, with Tibor Besedes (Georgia Tech) and Tristan Kohl (U of Groningen).

Tariff phaseouts in US bilateral Free Trade Agreements, with Shushanik Hakobyan (Fordham) and Tristan Kohl (U of Groningen).

Structural transformation and labor mobility over the life cycle, with Masha Brussevich (Purdue) and Mike Sposi (Dallas Fed).

Tariff bindings and Preferential Trade Agreements, with Moise Nken (Ryerson) and Halis M. Yildiz (Ryerson).

Antidumping and Reciprocity, with Paola Conconi (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and Maurizio Zanardi (Lancaster University).