Trade Policy Disaster: Lessons from the 1930s (Ohlin Lectures)

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Results for - ohlins. Fiscal stimulus is like a drug with tolerance effects; to keep growth constant, deficits have to keep getting larger. Some combination of gathering foreign storm clouds, the end of growing fiscal stimulus and the delayed effect of tightening monetary policies may converge to slow or end the expansion.

The choices this administration is making invite foreign retaliation against U. Because of this, and because there is limited room for monetary policy, the country will not be in a position to respond strongly if a downturn comes. All the more reason, therefore, to avoid pulling demand forward. This is all quite dangerous. The president has taken credit for far more economic success than he deserves. He will disproportionately be blamed when the downturn comes. What follows will be a test of our democracy.

Count us as sympathetic to his viewpoint. Our Survey of Business Uncertainty SBU elicits information about each firm's expectations and uncertainty regarding its own future capital expenditures, sales growth, employment, and costs. A pressing issue at the moment is whether, and how, firms are reassessing their capital investment plans in light of recent tariff hikes and fears of more to come. By raising input costs, domestic tariff hikes undercut the business case for some investments. They can raise domestic investment in newly protected industries. Retaliatory tariff hikes by trading partners can also affect domestic investment by curtailing the demand for U.


An uncertain outlook for trade policy can cause firms in all industries to delay investments while they wait to see how trade policy disputes unfold. We first posed a simple question: "Have the recently announced tariff hikes or concerns about retaliation caused your firm to reassess its capital expenditure plans? As exhibit 1 shows, the share of firms reassessing their capital plans because of tariff worries is higher for goods-producing firms than service-providers. In contrast, it's only 14 percent among all service providers in our sample.

These sectoral patterns make sense, given that manufacturing firms, for example, are more engaged in international commerce than most service providers.

We also asked firms how they are reassessing their capital expenditure plans in light of tariff worries. Exhibit 2 provides information on this issue. Among firms reassessing, 67 percent have placed some of their previously planned capital expenditures for —19 "under review," 31 percent have "postponed" or "dropped" previously planned expenditures, 14 percent have "accelerated" their plans, and 2 percent one firm added new capital expenditures for — Finally, we asked firms how much tariff worries affect their previously planned capital expenditures.

Among firms re-assessing, an average 60 percent of their capital expenditure plans are affected. The predominant form of reassessment is placing previously planned capital expenditures "under review. Among this one-fifth, firms have reassessed an average 60 percent of capital expenditures previously planned for — The main form of reassessment thus far is to place previously planned capital expenditures under review.

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Only 6 percent of the firms in our full sample report cutting or deferring previously planned capital expenditures in reaction to tariff worries. These findings suggest that tariff worries have had only a small negative effect on U. Still, there are sound reasons for concern. First, 30 percent of manufacturing firms report reassessing capital expenditure plans because of tariff worries, and manufacturing is highly capital intensive.

So the investment effects of trade policy frictions are concentrated in a sector that accounts for much of business investment. Second, 12 percent of the firms in our full sample report that they have placed previously planned capital expenditures under review.

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Third, trade policy tensions between the United States and China have only escalated since our survey went to field. The negative effects of tariff worries on U. Presenting there was an honor for me, and I got a lot of sharp feedback. It's also getting to the point where I need to start thinking about my upcoming AEA presentation alongside David Autor and Peter Schott, two titans in this field who both deserve a lot of credit for helping to bring careful identification to empirical international trade, and for challenging dogma.

After all, before , as far as I know the cause of the " Surprisingly Swift " decline in US manufacturing employment had not been written about in any academic papers. This was despite the fact that the collapse was mostly complete by , and was intuitive to many since it coincided with a large structural trade deficit. Try to explain that one with your productivity boom and slow demand growth, Robert Lawrence On one hand, there is now mounting evidence that the rise of Chinese manufacturing harmed US sectors which compete with China. This probably also hurt some individual communities and people pretty badly, and might also have triggered an out-migration in those communities.

On the other hand, typically the Fed offsets a shock to one set of industries with lower interest rates helping others, while consumers everywhere have benefited from cheaper Chinese goods. Which of these is larger? I can't say I'm sure, but of these shocks mentioned so far, I would probably give a slight edge to the benefit of lower prices and varieties. Many free!

Trade Policy Disaster

However, I think this view misses 4 other inter-related points, and in addition does not sound to me like a winning policy strategy for the Democrats in And a losing strategy here means more Trumpian protectionism. But they include our master of ceremonies and my Berkeley colleague Maury Obstfeld. And they include my oldest and closest childhood friend from the age of three.

My topic today is trade policy and the macroeconomy.