Interest Groups, Trade Liberalization, and Environmental Standards

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Courtesy of Springer

In considering a country that imposes a minimum standard on an imported polluting good, which generates negative consumption externalities, we construct a common-agency model, in which a domestic environmental group and a foreign industrial lobby can influence the formation of the minimum standard by providing political contributions to the government. This paper investigates the effects of trade liberalization on the political equilibrium environmental standard, the pattern of trade, environmental disutility, and social welfare. We find that trade liberalization tightens the minimum standard, decreases imports of the polluting good, and reduces environmental disutilities. The importing country’s social welfare, however, does not necessarily increase with trade liberalization. The weaker the environmental group’s lobbying efficiency, or the stronger the foreign firm’s lobbying efficiency, the more likely it is that trade liberalization will enhance the importing country’s welfare.

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