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Protecting infant industries: Canadian manufacturing and the national policy, 1870–1913

Richard Harris, Ian Keay and Frank Lewis

Explorations in Economic History, 2015, vol. 56, issue C, 15-31

Abstract: Infant industry protection has been the cornerstone of a debate on tariff policy that extends at least from the eighteenth century to the current day. In contrast to traditional neo-classical models of international trade that imply net negative effects, industrial organization and learning-by-doing trade models describe how protective tariffs can encourage output expansion, productivity improvement, and price reductions. Taking Canada's 1879 National Policy as a natural experiment, we explore the effect of a policy that substantially increased tariff protection to some, but not all, Canadian manufacturing industries. Using treatment intensity and difference-in-differences approaches, we find strong support for the predictions of the new trade models. After 1879, industries that received greater protection experienced faster growth in output and productivity, as well as larger price reductions. The industries targeted by the National Policy also exhibited greater returns to scale and faster learning rates. These results have important implications for the infant-industry debate in addition to addressing a central theme in Canadian economic history,

Keywords: Infant industries; Tariffs and industrial development; Canadian development (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N71 N61 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015
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DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2015.01.001

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