Lerner Meets Metzler: Tariff Pass-through of Worldwide Trade

Discussion Papers

No.741

by Kazunobu Hayakawa, Tadashi Ito, and Hiroshi Mukunoki

February 2019

ABSTRACT

In this paper, we start with quantifying the worldwide tariff pass-through, i.e., the impact of tariff reductions on trade prices. We find that a 1% reduction of tariffs decreases trade prices by 0.1%, i.e., a negative tariff pass-through (Lerner paradox). To uncover the mechanism underlying this result, we decompose trade prices into product quality and quality-adjusted trade prices. As a result, we found that a 1% reduction of tariff rates decreases product quality by 1.2% and increases quality-adjusted trade prices by 1.1% (Metzler paradox). We construct a theoretical model that demonstrates the mechanism behind these empirical results. We suggest that both a firm-delocation mechanism under variable markups and a quality-sorting mechanism are the driving forces behind these empirical findings. Lastly, by employing this theoretical model, we also examine the welfare effect of tariff changes.

Keywords: Tariff pass-through, Import prices, Quality

JEL classification: F15, F53

Please note that discussion papers are works in various stages of progress and most have not been edited and proofread and may contain errors of fact or judgment. Revised versions of these papers may subsequently appear in more formal publication series. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). The IDE does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included and accepts no responsibility for any consequences arising from its use.