Tariffs, Employment and the Current Account: Real Wage Resistance and the Macroeconomics of Protectionism

30 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2007 Last revised: 7 Sep 2010

See all articles by Sweder van Wijnbergen

Sweder van Wijnbergen

Universiteit van Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: May 1987

Abstract

Using a standard complete specialization model of a small open economy within a rigorous intertemporal optimization framework with contract- based wage rigidity, we show that permanent tariffs may lead to a current account deterioration and a fall in employment, contradicting most of the literature of macro-economic effects of import tariffs. I show that this will always be the case if the economy is small enough. The crucial factor in this complete reversal of standard results is the impact of tariffs on domestic real product wages via wage indexation. Temporary tariffs will have less of a negative impact on the CA or potentially even a positive impact, because they increase the consumption rate of interest (the terms at which future consumption can be traded for current consumption) and so increase private savings. Extensions towards incorporating a more general production structure, investment and the use of tariff revenues to provide wage subsidies are presented.

Suggested Citation

van Wijnbergen, Sweder, Tariffs, Employment and the Current Account: Real Wage Resistance and the Macroeconomics of Protectionism (May 1987). NBER Working Paper No. w2261. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=347042

Sweder Van Wijnbergen (Contact Author)

Universiteit van Amsterdam ( email )

Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands
+31 20 525 4011 / 4203 (Phone)
+31-35-624 91 82 (Fax)

Tinbergen Institute

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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