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Positive Feedback: The Impact of Trade Liberalization on Industry Demands for Protection

Author: Oona A. Hathaway
Summer 1998
International Organization


Contrary to widely accepted theories of interest-group demand for protection, industries that experience high and rising import competition after a reduction in trade barriers often become less rather than more protectionist in the long term. To unravel this paradox, I propose and test a theory that explains variation in domestic producer groups' demand for protection over time. This model of industry behavior suggests that trade liberalization has a "positive feedback" effect on the policy preferences and political strategies of domestic industries, compelling them to adjust to more competitive market conditions and thereby reducing their future demand for protection.