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Beyond Institutionalism: There Lies a Good Set of Trade Policies

Mamoon, Dawood and Murshed, S. Mansoob (2011): Beyond Institutionalism: There Lies a Good Set of Trade Policies.

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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to empirically examine the contribution of trade liberalisation to differences in the level of prosperity across nations. We compare this with the relative contribution of institutional capacity to prosperity, as well as the role of human capital accumulation in that respect. We employ several concepts of institutional quality, trade policy and openness variables following various definitions prevalent in the literature. Unlike in the comparable study by Rodrik et al (2004) we have (a) included a role for human capital, (b) employed six institutional variables compared to one only in Rodrik et al (rule of law), (c) included trade policy variables, and not just openness indicators and (d) expanded the set of openness measures employed. We discover that opening up domestic markets to foreign competition by removing trade restrictions and barriers may be good for economic performance. Secondly, developing human capital is as important as superior institutional functioning for economic wellbeing. We find that openness counts for little per se in explaining income differences across countries. This is because it is an outcome and not a cause. Trade policies, and liberalisation, on the other hand, are not insignificant in explaining cross-country per-capita income variation. With regard to trade policies, export taxes are the most important in explaining cross-country per-capita income differences.

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