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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
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