The Long and Short of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement

Daniel Trefler

NBER Working Paper No. 8293
Issued in May 2001
NBER Program(s):International Trade and Investment

The Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) provides a unique window on the effects of trade liberalization. It was an unusually clean trade policy exercise in that it was not bundled into a larger package of macroeconomic or market reforms. This paper uses the 1989-96 Canadian FTA experience to examine the short-run adjustment costs and long-run efficiency gains that flow from trade liberalization. For industries subject to large tariff cuts (these are typically low-end' manufacturing industries), the short-run costs included a 15% decline in employment and about a 10% decline in both output and the number of plants. Balanced against these large short-run adjustment costs were long-run labour productivity gains of 17% or a spectacular 1.0% per year. Although good capital stock and plant-level data are lacking, an attempt is made to identify the sources of FTA-induced labour productivity growth. Surprisingly, this growth is not due to rising output per plant, increased investment, or market share shifts to high-productivity plants. Instead, half of the 17% labour productivity growth appears due to favourable plant turnover (entry and exit) and rising technical efficiency.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8293

Published: Trefler, Danie. "The Long And Short Of The Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement," American Economic Review, 2004, v94(4,Sep), 870-895. citation courtesy of

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