Tariffs with Private Information and Reputation
30 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2007 Last revised: 1 Feb 2021
Date Written: May 1989
When governments choose trade policy, rarely do they have complete information, At the time decisions are made, policy makers have only estimates of market responses, as well as the responses of foreign governments. In many realistic situations, even the policy objectives of other governments may not be known. For example, the balance of constitutional powers in the United States is often cited as a source of confusion as to objectives of U.S. trade policy. In this paper we examine the Bayesian Nash equilibria of several noncooperative tariff games with incomplete information, In the models examined, the home country has private information about whether its government is a low or high tariff type. If the foreign government is uncertain about this type in a one-shot game, its Nash equilibrium tariff will be lower (higher) than if it knew the home government were a low (high) tariff type. In two multistage games, misleading behavior by the home government is shown to be an equilibrium strategy for sufficiently high discount factors. Whether the uncertainty is persistent or can be resolved is shown to be important for welfare results in the multistage setting. In the models examined, tariff rules do not necessarily dominate discretionary policy.
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