Wednesday 20 September 2017

The costs of policy uncertainty

From the latest issue of the American Economic Review (gated):
We examine the impact of policy uncertainty on trade, prices, and real income through firm entry investments in general equilibrium. We estimate and quantify the impact of trade policy on China’s export boom to the United States following its 2001 WTO accession. We find the accession reduced the US threat of a trade war, which can account for over one-third of that export growth in the period 2000 – 2005. Reduced policy uncertainty lowered US prices and increased its consumers’ income by the equivalent of a 13-percentage-point permanent tariff decrease. These findings provide evidence of large effects of policy uncertainty on economic activity and the importance of agreements for reducing it.
Accession of China to the WTO gave China the same Most Favoured Nation status as other WTO members. That meant that the US could not impose trade punishments on China whenever it got mad about Chinese policy. The paper notes that the risk of this was high prior to WTO-accession as the House kept voting to remove China's MFN status post-Tienanmen.

They generate a variable on trade policy uncertainty to put into the gravity equations for trade. Trade policy uncertainty winds up mattering - folks don't want to sink investments into trade relationships if policy can wipe them out quickly.

Now think about the effects of government-induced policy uncertainty in the downtown Christchurch rebuild. Wellington focused on trying to provide certainty around demand in the Christchurch downtown and paid no attention to the uncertainty it was generating around supply and investment through its fiddling with precincts, what was allowed where, whether there would be a new convention centre (and when and where)...

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