Tariff protection in Argentina between the First Globalization and the post-war period

Sångsalen Session 1: The political economy of protection organized by Christopher Absell


Juan Pablo Juliá, Cecilia Lara (Universidad de la República, Uruguay)


This paper explores the evolution of tariff protection in Argentina between 1879 and 1951. While Latin American countries since independence are usually perceived as extremely protectionist, the impact on industrial development remained weak. Argentina, which by the end of the 19th century was categorized as a rich nation, was not an exception. It is not clear whether fiscal, industrialists, or extractive reasons dominated the configuration of tariffs in the country. Previous studies about tariff protection in the region relied on total custom revenue data relative to import values. However, to understand the structure of tariffs in the country we propose an indicator that reflects the effects of changes in tariffs and prices. Using a bottom-up approach based on individual goods data we study how changes of policies and international circumstances shaped local protection. With this study we want to understand if commercial policy was correctly designed to promote industrial activities. Also, we attempt to distinguish when and how radical was the shift towards the import substitution regime at the beginning of the 20th century. Lastly, we will try to distinguish to what extent the extractive character of the Argentine economy was reflected in the design of its tariff system. By doing that we seek to stress that import substitution began as a sub-product of both world wars effects and the economic depression of the 1930s, and not due to explicit economic policies. This lack of a correctly designed system would have hindered the development of the industrial sector in the country.


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