Why the move to free trade? Democracy and trade policy in the developing countries

Helen V. Milner, Keiko Kubota

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

421 Scopus citations

Abstract

Rising international trade flows are a primary component of globalization. The liberalization of trade policy in many developing countries has helped foster the growth of these flows. Preceding and concurrent with this move to free trade, there has been a global movement toward democracy. We argue that these two trends are related: democratization of the political system reduces the ability of governments to use trade barriers as a strategy for building political support. Political leaders in labor-rich countries may prefer lower trade barriers as democracy increases. Empirical evidence supports our claim about the developing countries from 1970-99. Regime change toward democracy is associated with trade liberalization, controlling for many factors. Conventional explanations of economic reform, such as economic crises and external pressures, seem less salient. Democratization may have fostered globalization in this period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-143
Number of pages37
JournalInternational Organization
Volume59
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law

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