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Principles of Economics 2e

34.1 Protectionism: An Indirect Subsidy from Consumers to Producers

Principles of Economics 2e34.1 Protectionism: An Indirect Subsidy from Consumers to Producers
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  1. Preface
  2. 1 Welcome to Economics!
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 What Is Economics, and Why Is It Important?
    3. 1.2 Microeconomics and Macroeconomics
    4. 1.3 How Economists Use Theories and Models to Understand Economic Issues
    5. 1.4 How To Organize Economies: An Overview of Economic Systems
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
  3. 2 Choice in a World of Scarcity
    1. Introduction to Choice in a World of Scarcity
    2. 2.1 How Individuals Make Choices Based on Their Budget Constraint
    3. 2.2 The Production Possibilities Frontier and Social Choices
    4. 2.3 Confronting Objections to the Economic Approach
    5. Key Terms
    6. Key Concepts and Summary
    7. Self-Check Questions
    8. Review Questions
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Problems
  4. 3 Demand and Supply
    1. Introduction to Demand and Supply
    2. 3.1 Demand, Supply, and Equilibrium in Markets for Goods and Services
    3. 3.2 Shifts in Demand and Supply for Goods and Services
    4. 3.3 Changes in Equilibrium Price and Quantity: The Four-Step Process
    5. 3.4 Price Ceilings and Price Floors
    6. 3.5 Demand, Supply, and Efficiency
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  5. 4 Labor and Financial Markets
    1. Introduction to Labor and Financial Markets
    2. 4.1 Demand and Supply at Work in Labor Markets
    3. 4.2 Demand and Supply in Financial Markets
    4. 4.3 The Market System as an Efficient Mechanism for Information
    5. Key Terms
    6. Key Concepts and Summary
    7. Self-Check Questions
    8. Review Questions
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Problems
  6. 5 Elasticity
    1. Introduction to Elasticity
    2. 5.1 Price Elasticity of Demand and Price Elasticity of Supply
    3. 5.2 Polar Cases of Elasticity and Constant Elasticity
    4. 5.3 Elasticity and Pricing
    5. 5.4 Elasticity in Areas Other Than Price
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  7. 6 Consumer Choices
    1. Introduction to Consumer Choices
    2. 6.1 Consumption Choices
    3. 6.2 How Changes in Income and Prices Affect Consumption Choices
    4. 6.3 Behavioral Economics: An Alternative Framework for Consumer Choice
    5. Key Terms
    6. Key Concepts and Summary
    7. Self-Check Questions
    8. Review Questions
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Problems
  8. 7 Production, Costs, and Industry Structure
    1. Introduction to Production, Costs, and Industry Structure
    2. 7.1 Explicit and Implicit Costs, and Accounting and Economic Profit
    3. 7.2 Production in the Short Run
    4. 7.3 Costs in the Short Run
    5. 7.4 Production in the Long Run
    6. 7.5 Costs in the Long Run
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  9. 8 Perfect Competition
    1. Introduction to Perfect Competition
    2. 8.1 Perfect Competition and Why It Matters
    3. 8.2 How Perfectly Competitive Firms Make Output Decisions
    4. 8.3 Entry and Exit Decisions in the Long Run
    5. 8.4 Efficiency in Perfectly Competitive Markets
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  10. 9 Monopoly
    1. Introduction to a Monopoly
    2. 9.1 How Monopolies Form: Barriers to Entry
    3. 9.2 How a Profit-Maximizing Monopoly Chooses Output and Price
    4. Key Terms
    5. Key Concepts and Summary
    6. Self-Check Questions
    7. Review Questions
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Problems
  11. 10 Monopolistic Competition and Oligopoly
    1. Introduction to Monopolistic Competition and Oligopoly
    2. 10.1 Monopolistic Competition
    3. 10.2 Oligopoly
    4. Key Terms
    5. Key Concepts and Summary
    6. Self-Check Questions
    7. Review Questions
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Problems
  12. 11 Monopoly and Antitrust Policy
    1. Introduction to Monopoly and Antitrust Policy
    2. 11.1 Corporate Mergers
    3. 11.2 Regulating Anticompetitive Behavior
    4. 11.3 Regulating Natural Monopolies
    5. 11.4 The Great Deregulation Experiment
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  13. 12 Environmental Protection and Negative Externalities
    1. Introduction to Environmental Protection and Negative Externalities
    2. 12.1 The Economics of Pollution
    3. 12.2 Command-and-Control Regulation
    4. 12.3 Market-Oriented Environmental Tools
    5. 12.4 The Benefits and Costs of U.S. Environmental Laws
    6. 12.5 International Environmental Issues
    7. 12.6 The Tradeoff between Economic Output and Environmental Protection
    8. Key Terms
    9. Key Concepts and Summary
    10. Self-Check Questions
    11. Review Questions
    12. Critical Thinking Questions
    13. Problems
  14. 13 Positive Externalities and Public Goods
    1. Introduction to Positive Externalities and Public Goods
    2. 13.1 Why the Private Sector Underinvests in Innovation
    3. 13.2 How Governments Can Encourage Innovation
    4. 13.3 Public Goods
    5. Key Terms
    6. Key Concepts and Summary
    7. Self-Check Questions
    8. Review Questions
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Problems
  15. 14 Labor Markets and Income
    1. Introduction to Labor Markets and Income
    2. 14.1 The Theory of Labor Markets
    3. 14.2 Wages and Employment in an Imperfectly Competitive Labor Market
    4. 14.3 Market Power on the Supply Side of Labor Markets: Unions
    5. 14.4 Bilateral Monopoly
    6. 14.5 Employment Discrimination
    7. 14.6 Immigration
    8. Key Terms
    9. Key Concepts and Summary
    10. Self-Check Questions
    11. Review Questions
    12. Critical Thinking Questions
  16. 15 Poverty and Economic Inequality
    1. Introduction to Poverty and Economic Inequality
    2. 15.1 Drawing the Poverty Line
    3. 15.2 The Poverty Trap
    4. 15.3 The Safety Net
    5. 15.4 Income Inequality: Measurement and Causes
    6. 15.5 Government Policies to Reduce Income Inequality
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  17. 16 Information, Risk, and Insurance
    1. Introduction to Information, Risk, and Insurance
    2. 16.1 The Problem of Imperfect Information and Asymmetric Information
    3. 16.2 Insurance and Imperfect Information
    4. Key Terms
    5. Key Concepts and Summary
    6. Self-Check Questions
    7. Review Questions
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Problems
  18. 17 Financial Markets
    1. Introduction to Financial Markets
    2. 17.1 How Businesses Raise Financial Capital
    3. 17.2 How Households Supply Financial Capital
    4. 17.3 How to Accumulate Personal Wealth
    5. Key Terms
    6. Key Concepts and Summary
    7. Self-Check Questions
    8. Review Questions
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Problems
  19. 18 Public Economy
    1. Introduction to Public Economy
    2. 18.1 Voter Participation and Costs of Elections
    3. 18.2 Special Interest Politics
    4. 18.3 Flaws in the Democratic System of Government
    5. Key Terms
    6. Key Concepts and Summary
    7. Self-Check Questions
    8. Review Questions
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Problems
  20. 19 The Macroeconomic Perspective
    1. Introduction to the Macroeconomic Perspective
    2. 19.1 Measuring the Size of the Economy: Gross Domestic Product
    3. 19.2 Adjusting Nominal Values to Real Values
    4. 19.3 Tracking Real GDP over Time
    5. 19.4 Comparing GDP among Countries
    6. 19.5 How Well GDP Measures the Well-Being of Society
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  21. 20 Economic Growth
    1. Introduction to Economic Growth
    2. 20.1 The Relatively Recent Arrival of Economic Growth
    3. 20.2 Labor Productivity and Economic Growth
    4. 20.3 Components of Economic Growth
    5. 20.4 Economic Convergence
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  22. 21 Unemployment
    1. Introduction to Unemployment
    2. 21.1 How Economists Define and Compute Unemployment Rate
    3. 21.2 Patterns of Unemployment
    4. 21.3 What Causes Changes in Unemployment over the Short Run
    5. 21.4 What Causes Changes in Unemployment over the Long Run
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  23. 22 Inflation
    1. Introduction to Inflation
    2. 22.1 Tracking Inflation
    3. 22.2 How to Measure Changes in the Cost of Living
    4. 22.3 How the U.S. and Other Countries Experience Inflation
    5. 22.4 The Confusion Over Inflation
    6. 22.5 Indexing and Its Limitations
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  24. 23 The International Trade and Capital Flows
    1. Introduction to the International Trade and Capital Flows
    2. 23.1 Measuring Trade Balances
    3. 23.2 Trade Balances in Historical and International Context
    4. 23.3 Trade Balances and Flows of Financial Capital
    5. 23.4 The National Saving and Investment Identity
    6. 23.5 The Pros and Cons of Trade Deficits and Surpluses
    7. 23.6 The Difference between Level of Trade and the Trade Balance
    8. Key Terms
    9. Key Concepts and Summary
    10. Self-Check Questions
    11. Review Questions
    12. Critical Thinking Questions
    13. Problems
  25. 24 The Aggregate Demand/Aggregate Supply Model
    1. Introduction to the Aggregate Supply–Aggregate Demand Model
    2. 24.1 Macroeconomic Perspectives on Demand and Supply
    3. 24.2 Building a Model of Aggregate Demand and Aggregate Supply
    4. 24.3 Shifts in Aggregate Supply
    5. 24.4 Shifts in Aggregate Demand
    6. 24.5 How the AD/AS Model Incorporates Growth, Unemployment, and Inflation
    7. 24.6 Keynes’ Law and Say’s Law in the AD/AS Model
    8. Key Terms
    9. Key Concepts and Summary
    10. Self-Check Questions
    11. Review Questions
    12. Critical Thinking Questions
    13. Problems
  26. 25 The Keynesian Perspective
    1. Introduction to the Keynesian Perspective
    2. 25.1 Aggregate Demand in Keynesian Analysis
    3. 25.2 The Building Blocks of Keynesian Analysis
    4. 25.3 The Phillips Curve
    5. 25.4 The Keynesian Perspective on Market Forces
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
  27. 26 The Neoclassical Perspective
    1. Introduction to the Neoclassical Perspective
    2. 26.1 The Building Blocks of Neoclassical Analysis
    3. 26.2 The Policy Implications of the Neoclassical Perspective
    4. 26.3 Balancing Keynesian and Neoclassical Models
    5. Key Terms
    6. Key Concepts and Summary
    7. Self-Check Questions
    8. Review Questions
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Problems
  28. 27 Money and Banking
    1. Introduction to Money and Banking
    2. 27.1 Defining Money by Its Functions
    3. 27.2 Measuring Money: Currency, M1, and M2
    4. 27.3 The Role of Banks
    5. 27.4 How Banks Create Money
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  29. 28 Monetary Policy and Bank Regulation
    1. Introduction to Monetary Policy and Bank Regulation
    2. 28.1 The Federal Reserve Banking System and Central Banks
    3. 28.2 Bank Regulation
    4. 28.3 How a Central Bank Executes Monetary Policy
    5. 28.4 Monetary Policy and Economic Outcomes
    6. 28.5 Pitfalls for Monetary Policy
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  30. 29 Exchange Rates and International Capital Flows
    1. Introduction to Exchange Rates and International Capital Flows
    2. 29.1 How the Foreign Exchange Market Works
    3. 29.2 Demand and Supply Shifts in Foreign Exchange Markets
    4. 29.3 Macroeconomic Effects of Exchange Rates
    5. 29.4 Exchange Rate Policies
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  31. 30 Government Budgets and Fiscal Policy
    1. Introduction to Government Budgets and Fiscal Policy
    2. 30.1 Government Spending
    3. 30.2 Taxation
    4. 30.3 Federal Deficits and the National Debt
    5. 30.4 Using Fiscal Policy to Fight Recession, Unemployment, and Inflation
    6. 30.5 Automatic Stabilizers
    7. 30.6 Practical Problems with Discretionary Fiscal Policy
    8. 30.7 The Question of a Balanced Budget
    9. Key Terms
    10. Key Concepts and Summary
    11. Self-Check Questions
    12. Review Questions
    13. Critical Thinking Questions
    14. Problems
  32. 31 The Impacts of Government Borrowing
    1. Introduction to the Impacts of Government Borrowing
    2. 31.1 How Government Borrowing Affects Investment and the Trade Balance
    3. 31.2 Fiscal Policy and the Trade Balance
    4. 31.3 How Government Borrowing Affects Private Saving
    5. 31.4 Fiscal Policy, Investment, and Economic Growth
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  33. 32 Macroeconomic Policy Around the World
    1. Introduction to Macroeconomic Policy around the World
    2. 32.1 The Diversity of Countries and Economies across the World
    3. 32.2 Improving Countries’ Standards of Living
    4. 32.3 Causes of Unemployment around the World
    5. 32.4 Causes of Inflation in Various Countries and Regions
    6. 32.5 Balance of Trade Concerns
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  34. 33 International Trade
    1. Introduction to International Trade
    2. 33.1 Absolute and Comparative Advantage
    3. 33.2 What Happens When a Country Has an Absolute Advantage in All Goods
    4. 33.3 Intra-industry Trade between Similar Economies
    5. 33.4 The Benefits of Reducing Barriers to International Trade
    6. Key Terms
    7. Key Concepts and Summary
    8. Self-Check Questions
    9. Review Questions
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Problems
  35. 34 Globalization and Protectionism
    1. Introduction to Globalization and Protectionism
    2. 34.1 Protectionism: An Indirect Subsidy from Consumers to Producers
    3. 34.2 International Trade and Its Effects on Jobs, Wages, and Working Conditions
    4. 34.3 Arguments in Support of Restricting Imports
    5. 34.4 How Governments Enact Trade Policy: Globally, Regionally, and Nationally
    6. 34.5 The Tradeoffs of Trade Policy
    7. Key Terms
    8. Key Concepts and Summary
    9. Self-Check Questions
    10. Review Questions
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Problems
  36. A | The Use of Mathematics in Principles of Economics
  37. B | Indifference Curves
  38. C | Present Discounted Value
  39. D | The Expenditure-Output Model
  40. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
    11. Chapter 11
    12. Chapter 12
    13. Chapter 13
    14. Chapter 14
    15. Chapter 15
    16. Chapter 16
    17. Chapter 17
    18. Chapter 18
    19. Chapter 19
    20. Chapter 20
    21. Chapter 21
    22. Chapter 22
    23. Chapter 23
    24. Chapter 24
    25. Chapter 25
    26. Chapter 26
    27. Chapter 27
    28. Chapter 28
    29. Chapter 29
    30. Chapter 30
    31. Chapter 31
    32. Chapter 32
    33. Chapter 33
    34. Chapter 34
  41. References
  42. Index

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain protectionism and its three main forms
  • Analyze protectionism through concepts of demand and supply, noting its effects on equilibrium
  • Calculate the effects of trade barriers

When a government legislates policies to reduce or block international trade it is engaging in protectionism. Protectionist policies often seek to shield domestic producers and domestic workers from foreign competition. Protectionism takes three main forms: tariffs, import quotas, and nontariff barriers.

Recall from International Trade that tariffs are taxes that governments impose on imported goods and services. This makes imports more expensive for consumers, discouraging imports. For example, in recent years large, flat-screen televisions imported to the U.S. from China have faced a 5% tariff rate.

Another way to control trade is through import quotas, which are numerical limitations on the quantity of products that a country can import. For instance, during the early 1980s, the Reagan Administration imposed a quota on the import of Japanese automobiles. In the 1970s, many developed countries, including the United States, found themselves with declining textile industries. Textile production does not require highly skilled workers, so producers were able to set up lower-cost factories in developing countries. In order to “manage” this loss of jobs and income, the developed countries established an international Multifiber Agreement that essentially divided the market for textile exports between importers and the remaining domestic producers. The agreement, which ran from 1974 to 2004, specified the exact quota of textile imports that each developed country would accept from each low-income country. A similar story exists for sugar imports into the United States, which are still governed by quotas.

Nontariff barriers are all the other ways that a nation can draw up rules, regulations, inspections, and paperwork to make it more costly or difficult to import products. A rule requiring certain safety standards can limit imports just as effectively as high tariffs or low import quotas, for instance. There are also nontariff barriers in the form of “rules-of-origin” regulations; these rules describe the “Made in Country X” label as the one in which the last substantial change in the product took place. A manufacturer wishing to evade import restrictions may try to change the production process so that the last big change in the product happens in his or her own country. For example, certain textiles are made in the United States, shipped to other countries, combined with textiles made in those other countries to make apparel—and then re-exported back to the United States for a final assembly, to escape paying tariffs or to obtain a “Made in the USA” label.

Despite import quotas, tariffs, and nontariff barriers, the share of apparel sold in the United States that is imported rose from about half in 1999 to about three-quarters today. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), estimated the number of U.S. jobs in textiles and apparel fell from 666,360 in 2007 to 385,240 in 2012, a 42% decline. Even more U.S. textile industry jobs would have been lost without tariffs. However, domestic jobs that are saved by import quotas come at a cost. Because textile and apparel protectionism adds to the costs of imports, consumers end up paying billions of dollars more for clothing each year.

When the United States eliminates trade barriers in one area, consumers spend the money they save on that product elsewhere in the economy. Thus, while eliminating trade barriers in one sector of the economy will likely result in some job loss in that sector, consumers will spend the resulting savings in other sectors of the economy and hence increase the number of jobs in those other sectors. Of course, workers in some of the poorest countries of the world who would otherwise have jobs producing textiles, would gain considerably if the United States reduced its barriers to trade in textiles. That said, there are good reasons to be wary about reducing barriers to trade. The 2012 and 2013 Bangladeshi fires in textile factories, which resulted in a horrific loss of life, present complications that our simplified analysis in the chapter will not capture.

Realizing the compromises between nations that come about due to trade policy, many countries came together in 1947 to form the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). (We’ll cover the GATT in more detail later in the chapter.) This agreement has since been superseded by the World Trade Organization (WTO), whose membership includes about 150 nations and most of the world's economies. It is the primary international mechanism through which nations negotiate their trade rules—including rules about tariffs, quotas, and nontariff barriers. The next section examines the results of such protectionism and develops a simple model to show the impact of trade policy.

Demand and Supply Analysis of Protectionism

To the non-economist, restricting imports may appear to be nothing more than taking sales from foreign producers and giving them to domestic producers. Other factors are at work, however, because firms do not operate in a vacuum. Instead, firms sell their products either to consumers or to other firms (if they are business suppliers), who are also affected by the trade barriers. A demand and supply analysis of protectionism shows that it is not just a matter of domestic gains and foreign losses, but a policy that imposes substantial domestic costs as well.

Consider two countries, Brazil and the United States, who produce sugar. Each country has a domestic supply and demand for sugar, as Table 34.1 details and Figure 34.2 illustrates. In Brazil, without trade, the equilibrium price of sugar is 12 cents per pound and the equilibrium output is 30 tons. When there is no trade in the United States, the equilibrium price of sugar is 24 cents per pound and the equilibrium quantity is 80 tons. We label these equilibrium points as point E in each part of the figure.

This is a two-panel demand and supply graph, with quantity of sugar on the x-axis and price of sugar measured in cents per pound on the y-axis. The price-quantity pairs are plotted using the numbers from Table 34_01. The graph shows three sets of price outcomes in each country: no trade, free trade, and price with partial protectionism. The no-trade price in Brazil is lower than in the United States. Hence, when countries can engage in trade, the free-trade price will rise in Brazil and decrease in the United States.
Figure 34.2 The Sugar Trade between Brazil and the United States Before trade, the equilibrium price of sugar in Brazil is 12 cents a pound and it is 24 cents per pound in the United States. When trade is allowed, businesses will buy cheap sugar in Brazil and sell it in the United States. This will result in higher prices in Brazil and lower prices in the United States. Ignoring transaction costs, prices should converge to 16 cents per pound, with Brazil exporting 15 tons of sugar and the United States importing 15 tons of sugar. If trade is only partly open between the countries, it will lead to an outcome between the free-trade and no-trade possibilities.
Price Brazil: Quantity Supplied (tons) Brazil: Quantity Demanded (tons) U.S.: Quantity Supplied (tons) U.S.: Quantity Demanded (tons)
8 cents 20 35 60 100
12 cents 30 30 66 93
14 cents 35 28 69 90
16 cents 40 25 72 87
20 cents 45 21 76 83
24 cents 50 18 80 80
28 cents 55 15 82 78
Table 34.1 The Sugar Trade between Brazil and the United States

If international trade between Brazil and the United States now becomes possible, profit-seeking firms will spot an opportunity: buy sugar cheaply in Brazil, and sell it at a higher price in the United States. As sugar is shipped from Brazil to the United States, the quantity of sugar produced in Brazil will be greater than Brazilian consumption (with the extra production exported), and the amount produced in the United States will be less than the amount of U.S. consumption (with the extra consumption imported). Exports to the United States will reduce the sugar supply in Brazil, raising its price. Imports into the United States will increase the sugar supply, lowering its price. When the sugar price is the same in both countries, there is no incentive to trade further. As Figure 34.2 shows, the equilibrium with trade occurs at a price of 16 cents per pound. At that price, the sugar farmers of Brazil supply a quantity of 40 tons, while the consumers of Brazil buy only 25 tons.

The extra 15 tons of sugar production, shown by the horizontal gap between the demand curve and the supply curve in Brazil, is exported to the United States. In the United States, at a price of 16 cents, the farmers produce a quantity of 72 tons and consumers demand a quantity of 87 tons. The excess demand of 15 tons by American consumers, shown by the horizontal gap between demand and domestic supply at the price of 16 cents, is supplied by imported sugar. Free trade typically results in income distribution effects, but the key is to recognize the overall gains from trade, as Figure 34.3 shows. Building on the concepts that we outlined in Demand and Supply and Demand, Supply, and Efficiency in terms of consumer and producer surplus, Figure 34.3 (a) shows that producers in Brazil gain by selling more sugar at a higher price, while Figure 34.3 (b) shows consumers in the United States benefit from the lower price and greater availability of sugar. Consumers in Brazil are worse off (compare their no-trade consumer surplus with the free-trade consumer surplus) and U.S. producers of sugar are worse off. There are gains from trade—an increase in social surplus in each country. That is, both the United States and Brazil are better off than they would be without trade. The following Clear It Up feature explains how trade policy can influence low-income countries.

This figure uses two demand and supply diagrams and your understanding of consumer and producer surplus from the Demand and Supply chapter to show that free trade results in gains from trade and income distribution effects.
Figure 34.3 Free Trade of Sugar Free trade results in gains from trade. Total surplus increases in both countries, as the two blue-shaded areas show. However, there are clear income distribution effects. Producers gain in the exporting country, while consumers lose; and in the importing country, consumers gain and producers lose.

Link It Up

Visit this website to read more about the global sugar trade.

Clear It Up

Why are there low-income countries?

Why are the poor countries of the world poor? There are a number of reasons, but one of them will surprise you: the trade policies of the high-income countries. Following is a stark review of social priorities which the international aid organization, Oxfam International has widely publicized.

High-income countries of the world—primarily the United States, Canada, countries of the European Union, and Japan—subsidize their domestic farmers collectively by about $360 billion per year. By contrast, the total amount of foreign aid from these same high-income countries to the poor countries of the world is about $70 billion per year, or less than 20% of the farm subsidies. Why does this matter?

It matters because the support of farmers in high-income countries is devastating to the livelihoods of farmers in low-income countries. Even when their climate and land are well-suited to products like cotton, rice, sugar, or milk, farmers in low-income countries find it difficult to compete. Farm subsidies in the high-income countries cause farmers in those countries to increase the amount they produce. This increase in supply drives down world prices of farm products below the costs of production. As Michael Gerson of the Washington Post describes it: “[T]he effects in the cotton-growing regions of West Africa are dramatic . . . keep[ing] millions of Africans on the edge of malnutrition. In some of the poorest countries on Earth, cotton farmers are some of the poorest people, earning about a dollar a day. . . . Who benefits from the current system of subsidies? About 20,000 American cotton producers, with an average annual income of more than $125,000.”

As if subsidies were not enough, often, the high-income countries block agricultural exports from low-income countries. In some cases, the situation gets even worse when the governments of high-income countries, having bought and paid for an excess supply of farm products, give away those products in poor countries and drive local farmers out of business altogether.

For example, shipments of excess milk from the European Union to Jamaica have caused great hardship for Jamaican dairy farmers. Shipments of excess rice from the United States to Haiti drove thousands of low-income rice farmers in Haiti out of business. The opportunity costs of protectionism are not paid just by domestic consumers, but also by foreign producers—and for many agricultural products, those foreign producers are the world’s poor.

Now, let’s look at what happens with protectionism. U.S. sugar farmers are likely to argue that, if only they could be protected from sugar imported from Brazil, the United States would have higher domestic sugar production, more jobs in the sugar industry, and American sugar farmers would receive a higher price. If the United States government sets a high-enough tariff on imported sugar, or sets an import quota at zero, the result will be that the quantity of sugar traded between countries could be reduced to zero, and the prices in each country will return to the levels before trade was allowed.

Blocking only some trade is also possible. Suppose that the United States passed a sugar import quota of seven tons. The United States will import no more than seven tons of sugar, which means that Brazil can export no more than seven tons of sugar to the United States. As a result, the price of sugar in the United States will be 20 cents, which is the price where the quantity demanded is seven tons greater than the domestic quantity supplied. Conversely, if Brazil can export only seven tons of sugar, then the price of sugar in Brazil will be 14 cents per pound, which is the price where the domestic quantity supplied in Brazil is seven tons greater than domestic demand.

In general, when a country sets a low or medium tariff or import quota, the equilibrium price and quantity will be somewhere between those that prevail with no trade and those with completely free trade. The following Work It Out explores the impact of these trade barriers.

Work It Out

Effects of Trade Barriers

Let’s look carefully at the effects of tariffs or quotas. If the U.S. government imposes a tariff or quota sufficient to eliminate trade with Brazil, two things occur: U.S. consumers pay a higher price and therefore buy a smaller quantity of sugar. U.S. producers obtain a higher price and they sell a larger quantity of sugar. We can measure the effects of a tariff on producers and consumers in the United States using two concepts that we developed in Demand, Supply, and Efficiency: consumer surplus and producer surplus.

The graph represents the supply and demand of sugar in the U.S.
Figure 34.4 U.S. Sugar Supply and Demand When there is free trade, the equilibrium is at point A. When there is no trade, the equilibrium is at point E.

Step 1. Look at Figure 34.4, which shows a hypothetical version of the demand and supply of sugar in the United States.

Step 2. Note that when there is free trade the sugar market is in equilibrium at point A where Domestic Quantity Demanded (Qd) = Quantity Supplied (Domestic Qs + Imports from Brazil) at a price of PTrade.

Step 3. Note, also, that imports are equal to the distance between points C and A.

Step 4. Recall that consumer surplus is the value that consumers get beyond what they paid for when they buy a product. Graphically, it is the area under a demand curve but above the price. In this case, the consumer surplus in the United States is the area of the triangle formed by the points PTrade, A, and B.

Step 5. Recall, also, that producer surplus is another name for profit—it is the income producers get above the cost of production, which is shown by the supply curve here. In this case, the producer surplus with trade is the area of the triangle formed by the points Ptrade, C, and D.

Step 6. Suppose that the barriers to trade are imposed, imports are excluded, and the price rises to PNoTrade. Look what happens to producer surplus and consumer surplus. At the higher price, the domestic quantity supplied increases from Qs to Q at point E. Because producers are selling more quantity at a higher price, the producer surplus increases to the area of the triangle PNoTrade, E, and D.

Step 7. Compare the areas of the two triangles and you will see the increase in the producer surplus.

Step 8. Examine the consumer surplus. Consumers are now paying a higher price to get a lower quantity (Q instead of Qd). Their consumer surplus shrinks to the area of the triangle PNoTrade, E, and B.

Step 9. Determine the net effect. The producer surplus increases by the area Ptrade, C, E, PNoTrade. The loss of consumer surplus, however, is larger. It is the area Ptrade, A, E, PNoTrade. In other words, consumers lose more than producers gain as a result of the trade barriers and the United States has a lower social surplus.

Who Benefits and Who Pays?

Using the demand and supply model, consider the impact of protectionism on producers and consumers in each of the two countries. For protected producers like U.S. sugar farmers, restricting imports is clearly positive. Without a need to face imported products, these producers are able to sell more, at a higher price. For consumers in the country with the protected good, in this case U.S. sugar consumers, restricting imports is clearly negative. They end up buying a lower quantity of the good and paying a higher price for what they do buy, compared to the equilibrium price and quantity with trade. The following Clear It Up feature considers why a country might outsource jobs even for a domestic product.

Clear It Up

Why are Life Savers, an American product, not made in America?

In 1912, Clarence Crane invented Life Savers, the hard candy with the hole in the middle, in Cleveland, Ohio. Starting in the late 1960s and for 35 years afterward, a plant in Holland, Michigan produced 46 billion Life Savers a year, in 200 million rolls. However, in 2002, the Kraft Company announced that it would close the Michigan plant and move Life Saver production across the border to Montreal, Canada.

One reason is that Canadian workers are paid slightly less, especially in healthcare and insurance costs that are not linked to employment there. Another main reason is that the United States government keeps the sugar price high for the benefit of sugar farmers, with a combination of a government price floor program and strict quotas on imported sugar. According to the Coalition for Sugar Reform, from 2009 to 2012, the price of refined sugar in the United States ranged from 64% to 92% higher than the world price. Life Saver production uses over 100 tons of sugar each day, because the candies are 95% sugar.

A number of other candy companies have also reduced U.S. production and expanded foreign production. From 1997 to 2011, sugar-using industries eliminated some 127,000 jobs, or more than seven times the total employment in sugar production. While the candy industry is especially affected by the cost of sugar, the costs are spread more broadly. U.S. consumers pay roughly $1 billion per year in higher food prices because of elevated sugar costs. Meanwhile, sugar producers in low-income countries are driven out of business. Because of the sugar subsidies to domestic producers and the quotas on imports, they cannot sell their output profitably, or at all, in the United States market.

The fact that protectionism pushes up prices for consumers in the country enacting such protectionism is not always acknowledged openly, but it is not disputed. After all, if protectionism did not benefit domestic producers, there would not be much point in enacting such policies in the first place. Protectionism is simply a method of requiring consumers to subsidize producers. The subsidy is indirect, since consumers pay for it through higher prices, rather than a direct government subsidy paid with money collected from taxpayers. However, protectionism works like a subsidy, nonetheless. The American satirist Ambrose Bierce defined “tariff” this way in his 1911 book, The Devil’s Dictionary: “Tariff, n. A scale of taxes on imports, designed to protect the domestic producer against the greed of his consumer.”

The effect of protectionism on producers and consumers in the foreign country is complex. When a government uses an import quota to impose partial protectionism, Brazilian sugar producers receive a lower price for the sugar they sell in Brazil—but a higher price for the sugar they are allowed to export to the United States. Notice that some of the burden of protectionism, paid by domestic consumers, ends up in the hands of foreign producers in this case. Brazilian sugar consumers seem to benefit from U.S. protectionism, because it reduces the price of sugar that they pay (compared to the free-trade situation). On the other hand, at least some of these Brazilian sugar consumers also work as sugar farmers, so protectionism reduces their incomes and jobs. Moreover, if trade between the countries vanishes, Brazilian consumers would miss out on better prices for imported goods—which do not appear in our single-market example of sugar protectionism.

The effects of protectionism on foreign countries notwithstanding, protectionism requires domestic consumers of a product (consumers may include either households or other firms) to pay higher prices to benefit domestic producers of that product. In addition, when a country enacts protectionism, it loses the economic gains it would have been able to achieve through a combination of comparative advantage, specialized learning, and economies of scale, concepts that we discuss in International Trade.

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