Backfiring with Backhaul Problems: Trade and Industrial Policies with Endogenous Transport Costs

Nori Tarui, Environment

Trade barriers due to transport costs are as large as those due to tariffs. This paper incorporates the transport sector into a standard model of international trade and studies the effects of trade and industrial policies. Transport firms need to commit to a shipping capacity sufficient for a round trip, with a possible imbalance of shipping volumes in two directions. This imbalance is known as the “backhaul problem.” As transport firms attempt to avoid this problem, a tariff in one sector may affect other independent import and/or export sectors. In particular, domestic tariffs may backfire: domestic exports may also decrease, harming domestic export sectors and the domestic economy. This finding contributes to the literature on how import liberalization may generate a positive effect on the liberalizing country’s exports by identifying a new channel through endogenous changes in transport costs given the backhaul problem.

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