Trade Agreements in the Shadow of Lobbying

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3 Scopus citations


This paper presents a model of international trade agreements in which the executive branches of each government negotiate agreements while the legislative branches, subject to political pressure from firms, can disrupt them. Lobbying is in the style of Grossman and Helpman's ‘Protection for Sale’ model with a new feature: all actors face uncertainty arising from the complexity of the legislative process. I demonstrate that the higher the executives set tariffs in a trade agreement, the less effort lobbies put forth to prevent its ratification. Thus trade agreements act as a domestic political commitment device: executives set relatively high tariffs to discourage lobbying and increase the chance that the agreement will be ratified. The model sheds light on the empirical puzzle surrounding governments’ welfare weights in the Grossman and Helpman model and provides a new explanation for failures to ratify trade agreements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-43
Number of pages23
JournalReview of International Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • trade agreements
  • uncertainty
  • protection
  • lobbying
  • political economy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development


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