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Mercantilism as Strategic Trade Policy: The Anglo-Dutch Rivalry for the East India Trade

Douglas A. Irwin
Journal of Political Economy
Vol. 99, No. 6 (Dec., 1991), pp. 1296-1314
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2937731
Page Count: 19
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Mercantilism as Strategic Trade Policy: The Anglo-Dutch Rivalry for the East India Trade
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Abstract

This paper interprets seventeenth-century mercantilism in light of recent theories of strategic trade policy. Long-distance international commerce during the mercantilist period was undertaken chiefly by state-chartered monopoly trading companies and was therefore conducted under conditions of imperfect competition. The economic structure of the Anglo-Dutch rivalry for the East India trade provides an excellent illustration of an environment in which the profit-sharting motive for strategic trade policies exists. Dutch supremacy in the early East India trade was facilitated by a managerial incentive scheme in the monopoly charter that enabled it to achieve a Stackelberg leadership position against the English. Using data from the East India trade around 1620 in a Cournot duopoly model, I find that the managerial incentives yielded greater Dutch profits than would have been obtained from a standard profit-maximizing objective and that the scope for other strategic trade policies was clearly present.

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