Skip to main content


Betz, T., Sun, L., Zeng, K. and Liang, W., 2022. Preferences, domestic institutions and trade wars. Research Handbook on Trade Wars, pp.88-111.

Trade policies have vast distributive consequences, are the subject of intense special interest politics, involve trade-offs between private goods and public goods, and present a policy area squarely at the intersection of domestic and international politics. The domestic origins of trade policies–the preferences over trade policies as well as the institutional sources of trade policy choices–have thus long been of considerable interest across the social sciences. Building on this literature, this chapter reviews the domestic politics of trade wars with a focus on (economic) preferences and institutions. We consider trade wars as episodes of reciprocal, temporary tariff increases, with the ultimate goal of achieving policy concessions from the other side–such as improved market access, more equitable treatment of firms operating abroad, or the elimination of policies that privilege domestic firms over competitors. Beyond this interpretation of trade wars as conflict between states, trade wars have substantial domestic distributive consequences. Our review emphasizes the centrality of these domestic distributive conflicts in understanding trade wars. 1 Using the example of the trade war between China and the US, we identify some of the main political constituencies, their geographic distribution, and the role of institutions in explaining trade wars. We start by analyzing trade wars from the perspective of voters as consumers. As consumers, voters have little if anything to gain from trade wars. While collective action problems make it difficult for consumers to organize, the price effects of trade policies take a prominent place in explaining trade liberalization.


Written by syjeon821

Leave a Reply