Why the Move to Free Trade? Democracy and Trade Policy in the Developing Countries

TitleWhy the Move to Free Trade? Democracy and Trade Policy in the Developing Countries
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsMilner HV, Kubota K
JournalInternational Organization
Pagination - 143
Date PublishedJanuary 2005
ISBN Number0020-8183, 0020-8183
Keywords9063: international relations; international relations, 9141: political economy; political economy, article, Constraints, Democracy, Democratization, Developing Countries, Economic Change, Free Trade, Globalization, Trade, Trade policy
AbstractRising 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. Adapted from the source document.