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Article

Trade Policy-making in a Model of Legislative Bargaining

Journal of International Economics. 2013. Vol. 91. No. 2. P. 179-190.
Celik L., Karabay B., McLaren J.

In democracies, trade policy is the result of interactions among many agents with different agendas. In accordance with this observation, we construct a dynamic model of legislative trade policy-making in the realm of distributive politics. An economy consists of different sectors, each of which is concentrated in one or more electoral districts. Each district is represented by a legislator in the Congress. Legislative process is modeled as a multilateral sequential bargaining game à la Baron and Ferejohn (1989). Some surprising results emerge: bargaining can be welfare-worsening for all participants; legislators may vote for bills that make their constituents worse off; identical industries will receive very different levels of tariff. The results pose a challenge to empirical work, since equilibrium trade policy is a function not only of economic fundamentals but also of political variables at the time of congressional negotiations — some of them random realizations of mixed bargaining strategies.