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Tariffs and Trade Fluctuations: Does Protectionism Matter as Much as We Think?

Authors: William R. Thompson, and Rafael Reuveny
Spring 1998
International Organization


Despite the widespread assumption that tariffs reduce trade volume in the short term, it is conceivable that long-term expansion and contractions in trade actually drive tariff levels. A Granger causality analysis performed on British, U.S., French, German, Japanese, and a systematic aggregate data on GDP-tariff levels encompassing the 1854-1990 period finds mixed support for both the short- and long-term interpretations. In general, the antecedence of trade on protectionism predominates over the antecedence of protectionism on trade. One implication is that the long-term context should not be ignored in analyzing short-term dynamics.

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