Evidence and explanation for the Tariff-lobbying paradox: endogenous Tariffs fall as protectionist lobbying rises

Stephen Magee, Hongshik Lee, Junyun Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Recent empirical evidence suggests that U.S. protectionist lobbying expenditures rose while U.S. trade barrier fell. We find that the same result holds in our panel data sample from 28 countries between 1995 and 2011. We find two economic drivers cause the paradox between increasing protectionist lobbying and decreasing trade barrier. First, trade barriers decline as country capital-labour ratio endowments rise because of the rising political and economic power of capital that lobbies for free-trade. Second, factor intensities in production become more similar as factor-intensity convergence. This flattens the production possibility curve between exportable and import-competing production so that changes increased magnification in both factor rewards. In our panel, the magnification parameters are twice as high for capital as for labour (8.6 vs. 5.1). And, the elasticity of the capital return with respect to country capital-labour factor endowment ratios (.59) is nearly twice those of labour (.22). Increased magnification causes thus labour’s increased lobbying for protection to be more than offset by increased capital lobbying against protection. In short, while an increasing labour lobbies for protection as countries advance, combined tariff and non-tariff protection (OTRI) decline significantly as advanced countries get richer. This explains the tariff-protectionist-lobbying paradox.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4368-4384
Number of pages17
JournalApplied Economics
Issue number40
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Aug 27

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Lobbying
  • Paradoxes
  • Rent seeking
  • Tariffs
  • Trade protection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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