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Free to Trade: Democracies, Autocracies, and International Trade

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2014

Edward D. Mansfield
Ohio State University
Helen V. Milner
Columbia University
B. Peter Rosendorff
Georgetown University and University of Southern California


Relatively little research has focused on whether countries' political institutions affect their international trade relations. We address this issue by analyzing the relationship between regime type and trade policy. In a formal model of commercial policy, we establish that the ratification responsibility of the legislature in democratic states leads pairs of democracies to set trade barriers at a lower level than mixed country-pairs (composed of an autocracy and a democracy). We test this hypothesis by analyzing the effects of regime type on trade during the period from 1960 to 1990. The results of this analysis accord with our argument: Democratic pairs have had much more open trade relations than mixed pairs.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2000

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