Closed Jaguar, Open Dragon: Comparing Tariffs in Latin America and Asia Before World War Ii

35 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2002 Last revised: 31 Oct 2010

See all articles by Michael A. Clemens

Michael A. Clemens

Center for Global Development; IZA-Institute for the Study of Labor

Jeffrey G. Williamson

Harvard University - Department of Economics, Laird Bell Professor of Economics, Emeritus; Honorary Fellow, University of Wisconsin - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: December 2002

Abstract

Despite an enormous literature that has analyzed the comparative experiences of Latin America and Asia in post-World War II trade policy, almost no attention has been paid to the comparative experience prior to the wars. Even a cursory look at the best available empirical evidence reveals tremendous contrasts between the two regions. Latin America had the highest tariff barriers on earth before 1914; Asia had the lowest. Protected Latin America's belle ‚poque also boasted some of the most explosive growth performance on earth, while Asia registered some of the worst. What brought the two regions to the opposite ends of the tariff policy spectrum? And why are these quantum differences in economic performance so at odds with postwar conventional wisdom? We begin by describing a novel tariff database we have constructed from largely original sources. We explore the impact of colonial rule and unequal treaties' on Asian tariffs, as well as the impact of geography and political economy on Latin American tariffs. Limits to tariff policy autonomy explain one third of the vast difference between the two regions' tariffs before 1914; differences in the extent and structure of internal markets as well as the world tariff environment explain much of the rest. We conclude with an agenda for the future.

Suggested Citation

Clemens, Michael Andrew and Williamson, Jeffrey G., Closed Jaguar, Open Dragon: Comparing Tariffs in Latin America and Asia Before World War Ii (December 2002). NBER Working Paper No. w9401. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=364745

Michael Andrew Clemens

Center for Global Development ( email )

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Washington, DC 20036
United States

IZA-Institute for the Study of Labor ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://www.iza.org/profile?key=4270

Jeffrey G. Williamson (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics, Laird Bell Professor of Economics, Emeritus ( email )

Littauer Center
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Cambridge, MA 02138
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617-495-2438 (Phone)
617-496-7352 (Fax)

Honorary Fellow, University of Wisconsin - Department of Economics

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Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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