303/2016 Julia Cagé and Lucie Gadenne
This paper documents the fiscal cost of trade liberalization: the extent to which countries are able to recover the trade tax revenues lost from liberalizing trade by increasing tax revenues from other sources. Using a novel dataset on government revenues over the period 1792-2006 we compare the fiscal impact of trade liberalization in developing countries and in today’s rich countries at earlier stages of development. We find that trade liberalization episodes led to larger and longer-lived decreases in total tax revenues in developing countries since the 1970s than in rich countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Half the developing countries in our sample experience a fall in total tax revenues that lasts more than ten years after an episode. Results are similar when we consider government expenditures, suggesting decreases in trade tax revenues negatively affect governments’ capacity to provide public services in many developing countries.
Explorations in Economic History