Free Trade Areas and Rules of Origin: Economics and Politics

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(with Rupa Duttagupta) We incorporate intermediate inputs into a small-union general-equilibrium model and develop the welfare economics of preferential trading under the rules of origin.  Combining this analysis with the Grossman-Helpman political-economy model, we demonstrate that the rules of origin can improve the political viability of free trade areas (FTAs).  Two interesting outcomes are derived.  First, an FTA that lowered joint welfare of the union and was voted down in the absence of the rules of origin may become feasible in the presence of these rules.  Second, an FTA that increased joint welfare of the union but was voted down in the absence of the rules of origin may become acceptable in the presence of these rules but it may also turn welfare inferior to status quo.