Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-n6p7q Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-03-04T08:30:33.225Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Taking gains from trade (more) seriously: the effects of consumer perspective on free trade in contemporary Japan

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 September 2023

Yujin Woo*
Graduate School of Law, Hitotsubashi University, 2-1 Naka Kunitachi, Tokyo 186-8601, Japan
Ikuo Kume
School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University, 1-6-1 Nishiwaseda Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-8050, Japan
Corresponding author: Yujin Woo; Email:


Why do people's preferences towards trade liberalization fluctuate? And why do we observe the eventual return of public support towards free trade? The traditional literature in international political economy has typically calculated individuals' preferences based on their comparative advantage as income-earners, which arises from their specific or general skill level or employment status. What needs to be taken into account, however, is that their economic preferences are constructed based upon their intertwined identities as both income-earners and consumers. We designed and conducted an experiment in Japan (2015) that would impartially elicit answers regarding respondents' daily consumption patterns or (and) employment concerns rather than deliberately or artificially informing them of the potential benefits or harms of trade liberalization. The results display that consumer priming offsets negative impacts arising from employment priming. The consumer effect reduces individuals' concerns on income level or employment when they are exposed to consumer and employment primings simultaneously. Furthermore, our subgroup analyses reveal that the consumer effect remains even among those experiencing economic fragility such as low income or job insecurity. This suggests that potential losers have incentives to support free trade by appreciating consumer benefits.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Abe, S (2013) Abe-Naikaku-Sōridaijin-Kishakaigen (Press Conference by Prime Minister Abe). Available at (Accessed 15 March 2013).Google Scholar
Autor, DH, Dorn, D and Hanson, GH (2013) The China syndrome: local labor market effects of import competition in the United States. American Economic Review 103, 21212168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baker, A (2005) Who wants to globalize? Consumer tastes and labor markets in a theory of trade policy beliefs. American Journal of Political Science 49, 924938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baker, A (2009) The Market and the Masses in Latin America: Policy Reform and Consumption in Liberalizing Economies. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berman, E, Bound, J and Griliches, Z (1992) Changes in the demand for skilled labor within US manufacturing industries: evidence from the annual survey of manufactures. Quarterly Journal of Economics 109, 367397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bernard, AB and Jensen, JB (1999) Exceptional exporter performance: cause, effect, or both? Journal of International Economics 47, 125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bernard, AB, Jensen, JB, Redding, SJ and Schott, PK (2012) The empirics of firm-heterogeneity and international trade. Annual Review of Economics 4, 283313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blaker, M (1998) Negotiating on rice: no, no, a thousand times, no, 1998. In Kimura, H (ed), International Comparative Studies of Negotiating Behavior. Kyoto: International Research Center for Japanese Studies, pp. 211240.Google Scholar
Broda, C, Leibtag, E and Weinstein, DE (2009) The role of prices in measuring the poor's living standards. Journal of Economic Perspectives 23, 7797.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cline, WR (1997) Trade and Income Distribution. Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics.Google Scholar
Cross, G (1993) Time and Money: The Making of Consumer Culture. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
Davis, CL (2003) Food Fights over Free Trade: How International Institutions Promote Agricultural Trade Liberalization. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Davis, CL and Oh, J (2007) Repeal of the rice laws in Japan: the role of international pressure to overcome vested interests. Comparative Politics 40, 2140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ebbinghaus, H (1913) Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology. New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ellonen, N and Nätti, J (2015) Job insecurity and the unemployment rate: micro- and macro-level predictors of perceived job insecurity among Finnish employees 1984–2008. Economic and Industrial Democracy 36, 5171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elster, J (2006) Altruistic behavior and altruistic motivations. In Kolm, S-C and Ythier, JM (eds), Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism, and Reciprocity. North Holland: Elsevier BV, pp. 183206.Google Scholar
Eurobarometer (2016) Standard Eurobarometer Version 86. doi: 10.2775/173497. Available at Scholar
Gabel, MJ (1998) Economic integration and mass politics: market liberalization and public attitudes in the European Union. American Journal of Political Science 42, 936953.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goldstein, J, Margalit, Y and Rivers, D (2008) Producer, consumer, family member: the relationship between trade attitudes and family status, presented at the Princeton Conference on Domestic Preferences and Foreign Economic Policy, Princeton, April 2008. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Hainmueller, J and Hiscox, MJ (2006) Learning to love globalization: the effects of education: individual attitude towards international trade. International Organization 60, 469498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Handbury, J and Weinstein, DE (2015) Goods prices and availability in cities. The Review of Economic Studies 82, 258296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hearn, E (2020) Disentangling the relationship between sociotropic and egotropic trade attitudes: a survey experiment in Japan. Japanese Journal of Political Science 21, 3142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hiscox, MJ (2006) Through a glass and darkly: framing effects and individuals’ attitudes towards international trade. International Organization 60, 755780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Honma, M (2006) WTO negotiations and other agricultural trade issues in Japan. The World Economy 29, 697714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Huddy, L (2013) From group identity to political cohesion and commitment. In Huddy, L, Sears, DO and Levy, JS (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 737773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (2017) Making Trade and Engine of Growth for All: The Case for Trade and for Policies to Facilitate Adjustment. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
Jamitzky, U (2015) The TPP debate in Japan: reasons for a failed protest campaign. Asia Pacific Perspectives 13, 7997.Google Scholar
Jones, B (2017) Support for free trade agreements rebounds modestly, but wide partisan differences remain. Pew Research Center. Available at Scholar
Jones, T and Oberauer, K (2013) Serial-position effects for items and relations in short-term memory. Memory 21, 347365.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Katz, R and Ennis, P (2007) How able is. Foreign Affairs 86, 7592.Google Scholar
Kiewiet, RD and Lewis-Beck, M (2011) No man is and island: self-interest, the public interest, and sociotropic voting. Critical Review 23, 303319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kinder, DR and Kiewiet, RD (1981) Sociotropic politics: the American case. British Journal of Political Science 11, 129161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kingston, J (2016) Abe's faltering efforts to restart Japan. Current History 115, 233239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Li, C (2010) Primacy effect or recency effect? A long-term memory test of super bowl commercials. Journal of Consumer Behavior 9, 3244.Google Scholar
Lury, C (1996) Consumer Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
Mansfield, ED and Mutz, DC (2009) Support for free trade: self-interest, sociotropic politics, and out-group anxiety. International Organization 63, 425457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayda, AM and Rodrik, D (2005) Why are some people (and countries) more protectionist than others? European Economic Review 49, 13931430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mulgan, AG (2006) Agriculture and political reform in Japan: the Koizumi Legacy. Pacific Economic Papers No. 360.Google Scholar
Mulgan, AG (2014) The politics of trade policy, 2014. In Kingston, J (ed.), Critical Issues on Contemporary Japan. London and New York, NY: Routledge, pp. 2436.Google Scholar
Murdock, BB (1962) Serial position effect of free recall. Journal of Experimental Psychology 64, 482488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Naoi, M and Kume, I (2011) Explaining mass support for agricultural protectionism: evidence from a survey experiment during the global recession. International Organization 65, 771795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Naoi, M and Kume, I (2015) Workers or consumers? A survey experiment on the duality of citizens’ interests in the politics of trade. Comparative Political Studies 48, 125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Naoi, M and Urata, S (2013) Free trade agreements and domestic politics: the case of the trans-pacific partnership agreement. Asian Economic Policy Review 8, 326349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nguyen, Q (2017) Mind the gap? Rising income inequality and individual trade policy preferences. European Journal of Political Economy 50, 92105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nishida, R (2016) A study on Liberal Democratic Party's campaign method and strategy with a focus on the activities of the 2010s. Shakai Jōhōgaku (Social Informatics) 5, 3952.Google Scholar
Rho, S and Tomz, M (2017) Why don't trade preferences reflect economic self-interest? International Organization 71, 85108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scheve, KF and Slaughter, MJ (2001) What determines individual trade-policy preferences? Journal of International Economics 54, 267292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schor, JB (1999) The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer. New York, NY: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
Scitovsky, T (1976) The Joyless Economy: An Inquiry into Human Satisfaction and Consumer Dissatisfaction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Slater, D (1997) Consumer Culture and Modernity. Oxford: Polity Press.Google Scholar
Solís, M and Urata, S (2007) Japan's new foreign economic policy: towards an activist and strategic approach? Asian Economic Policy Review 2, 227245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Solís, M and Urata, S (2018) Abenomics and Japan's trade policy in a new era. Asian Economic Policy Review 13, 106123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vogel, SK (1999) When interests are not preferences: the cautionary tale of Japanese consumers. Comparative Politics 31, 187207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Walter, SW (2015) Globalization and the demand-side of politics: how globalization shapes labor market risk perceptions and policy preferences. Political Science Research and Methods 5, 5580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Welch, GB and Burnett, CT (1924) Is primacy a factor in association-formation? The Journal of Psychology 35, 396401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wiswede, D, Rüsseler, J and Münte, TF (2007) Serial position effects in free memory recall – an ERP-study. Biological Psychology 75, 185193.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Yamashita, K (2015) Japanese Agricultural Trade Policy and Sustainable Development. Issue Paper No. 56. International for Center and Sustainable Development. Geneva, Switzerland.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Woo and Kume supplementary material

Appendices A-C

Download Woo and Kume supplementary material(File)
File 88 KB