The Economic History Review

The last free traders? Interwar trade policy in the Netherlands and Netherlands East Indies

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Authors: Pim de Zwart, Markus Lampe, Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke
Published online: December 25, 2023DOI: 10.1111/ehr.13308

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There has still been too little detailed work on the protectionism that emerged in the wake of the Great Depression. In this paper we explore the experiences of two countries that have been largely neglected in the literature, the Netherlands and Netherlands East Indies (NEI). How did these traditionally free-trading economies respond to the Depression? We construct a detailed product-level database of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade on the basis of primary sources. While ad valorem tariff increases in the Netherlands were largely due to deflation, the country protected agriculture and textiles in a number of ways. Once quotas are taken into account, trade restrictiveness indices suggest that protection in the Netherlands and NEI was comparable to protection in the UK and India, respectively. The NEI quota system was largely geared to protecting Dutch exporters, and succeeded in doing so, but the reverse was not true.

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