The Trade (Policy) Discourse in Top Economic Journals
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In the aftermath of recent populist upheavals in Europe, nationalist economic policies challenge the overly positive view on economic integration and the reduction of trade barriers established by standard economic theory. For quite a long time the great majority of economists supported trade liberalisation policies, at least those actively engaged in policy advice or public debates. In this paper, we examine the elite economics discourse on trade policies during the last 20 years regarding specific characteristics of authors, affiliations, citation patterns, the overall attitude towards trade, as well as the methodological approach applied in these papers. Our analysis yields the following results: First, the hierarchical structure of economics also manifests in the debate about trade. Second, while we found some indications of a shift towards more empirically oriented work, quite often empirical data is solely used to calibrate models rather than to challenge potentially biased theoretical assumptions. Third, top economic discourses on trade are predominantly characterised by a normative bias in favour of trade-liberalisation-policies. Forth, we found that other-than-economic impacts and implications of trade policies (political, social and cultural as well as environmental issues) to a great extent either remain unmentioned or are rationalised by means of pure economic criteria.