The long-run labour market results of the Canada–US Free Commerce Settlement


Whereas worldwide economists have lengthy studied the distributional penalties of commerce liberalisation, conventional approaches assumed full employment and costless employee transitions (Stolper and Samuelson 1941). Nevertheless, latest empirical findings in Autor et al. (2014), Utar (2014, 2018a, 2018b), Autor (2017), and Dix-Carneiro and Kovak (2017a, 2017b) doc persistently depressed labour market outcomes in response to elevated import competitors. This has led to rising pessimism amongst each lecturers and policymakers relating to whether or not the basic beneficial properties from commerce are well worth the accompanying labour market disruptions.

Given this proof, one would possibly count on that the 1989 Canada–US Free Commerce Settlement (CUSFTA) generated large labour market disruption. This settlement diminished tariffs (taxes on imports) to zero on almost all non-agricultural commerce between the 2 international locations and led to adjustments in commerce flows that have been not less than as giant as these studied in prior analysis. But, in a latest paper (Kovak and Morrow 2022) we discover starkly completely different results than implied by the earlier literature: whereas Canadian staff suffered short-run displacement and earnings losses in response to elevated import competitors, long-run labour market outcomes corresponding to years labored and cumulative earnings have been largely unaffected. Equally, Canadian staff in industries that obtained elevated entry to US markets skilled short-run beneficial properties, however these results had largely disappeared by 2004.

The Canada–US Free Commerce Settlement

The negotiations that led to the CUSFTA started in September 1985 with free-market-oriented leaders in each Canada and the US in search of improved market entry within the face of sluggish progress within the multilateral buying and selling system (Morici 1990). Though the Settlement was signed in January 1988, ratification was unsure in Canada the place, like right this moment, commerce coverage was a politically contentious concern.1 The FTA was the first concern within the federal election in November 1988, wherein Conservatives gained sufficient seats for a majority, resulting in the passage of the settlement (Lileeva and Trefler 2010, Sears 2012).

The settlement got here into impact in January 1989. Together with slicing non-agricultural tariffs to zero, it harmonised requirements, ensured non-discrimination in companies rules, and created a bilateral panel of adjudication to resolve disputes. Though ad-valorem Canadian tariffs on US exports averaged solely 8.7% previous to the CUSFTA, tariff reductions led to giant will increase in Canadian imports from the US. Determine 1 exhibits that US import penetration as a share of home absorption in Canada (the strong line) grew by 40 share factors from 1988 to 2004. Remarkably, this improve was greater than 4 instances bigger than the expansion in Chinese language import penetration in Canada throughout this era (the dotted line) and far bigger than the expansion in Chinese language import penetration within the US throughout 1991–2011 (Autor et al. 2014, Desk I).2

Determine 1 Change in Canadian import penetration from 1988

Evaluating staff dealing with giant vs small reductions in tariff safety

To evaluate the impact of the FTA tariff cuts on Canadian staff, we ask whether or not staff dealing with bigger tariff cuts had completely different post-FTA outcomes than in any other case comparable staff dealing with smaller cuts. As a result of the tariff cuts have been unrelated to pre-FTA trade efficiency, this strategy credibly yields the causal impact of the tariff cuts on staff’ outcomes. As well as, we will use Canadian tax information to comply with particular person staff over time with out the measurement points raised by the casual sector in different contexts.

Not surprisingly, Canadian staff dealing with bigger Canadian tariff cuts of their preliminary trade of employment skilled a heightened likelihood of shedding the job they held in 1989. Nevertheless, there was little affect on whole years labored in the course of the 16 years following the FTA’s implementation. Determine 2 paperwork these results for low-attachment staff.3 

Determine 2 Per cent change in years labored for staff dealing with giant vs small cuts in Canadian tariffs dealing with US exports

Notes: ‘Preliminary agency’ is years labored on the preliminary employer, ‘Preliminary Ind.’ is years labored at different corporations in the identical trade, ‘Manuf.’ is years labored in different manufacturing industries, ‘Building’ is years labored in development, ‘Agriculture’ is years labored in agriculture, ‘Mining’ is years labored in mining, ‘Companies’ is years labored in companies, and ‘Unknown’ corresponds to years labored at corporations lacking a NAICS code.

The determine plots the % change in years labored for staff dealing with giant (seventy fifth percentile) versus small (twenty fifth percentile) cuts in Canadian tariffs dealing with US exports. The darkish bars present the complete impact by 2004, the ultimate yr lined by our pattern, whereas lighter bars present cumulative results as much as earlier years.4 The remaining units of columns decompose this cumulative impact into years labored in numerous industries or sectors. 

Bigger Canadian tariff cuts led to a 3.6% discount in years labored on the preliminary agency (roughly 5 months) however elevated the time spent in different manufacturing industries, development, and companies. As a result of displaced staff have been capable of finding employment in these different industries, the general impact of import competitors on years labored was very small, as have been the results on cumulative earnings throughout this era.

The FTA not solely elevated import competitors in Canada but additionally improved Canadian exporters’ entry to the US market. In our paper, we present that the results of US tariff cuts usually mirror these of the Canadian tariff cuts: they diminished a employee’s likelihood of separating from the preliminary employer and barely elevated earnings within the quick run, with employment and earnings beneficial properties within the preliminary agency partly offset by much less time spent employed elsewhere. Whereas all results are small, staff with stronger labour drive attachment are usually insulated from the damaging results of import competitors whereas nonetheless benefiting from elevated entry to the US market.

How did Canadian staff transition so successfully?

What accounts for the comparatively beneficial results skilled by Canadian staff following the CUSFTA relative to these documented by Autor et al. (2014) for the US and Dix-Carneiro and Kovak (2017) for Brazil, every of whom finds giant and persistently damaging results of import competitors on affected staff? We discover three necessary explanations.

First, Canadian staff shortly transitioned from jobs dealing with giant Canadian tariff cuts and into jobs dealing with smaller cuts. Determine 3 plots the imply whole CUSFTA tariff reduce for staff’ trade of employment in annually 1989–2004, dividing all staff into these initially in essentially the most protected industries, these with intermediate preliminary ranges of safety, and people with low preliminary ranges of safety. If no staff switched industries, the strains could be flat. If staff moved into industries with bigger Canadian tariff cuts, the strains could be upward sloping. 

Determine 3 Common whole CUSFTA tariff reduce for staff’ trade of employment, 1989–2004

As a result of the strains are downward sloping, we see that staff moved into industries with smaller tariff cuts, and this occurred shortly, significantly for staff initially working in industries dealing with giant tariff cuts. This contrasts sharply with the US expertise, as documented by Autor et al. (2014), the place manufacturing staff cycled between jobs dealing with equally excessive ranges of import competitors.

Second, FTA-related import competitors didn’t result in mass layoffs wherein corporations considerably reduce their workforce. As a result of mass layoffs result in persistently damaging outcomes for affected staff (Jacobson et al. 1993, Sofa and Placzek 2010, Lachowska et al. 2020), the absence of this impact helps clarify the comparatively beneficial outcomes for Canadian staff, in keeping with Brandilly et al. (2022).

Third, the damaging results of import competitors appear to have fallen most closely upon new entrants to the labour market. Employment progress was slower for Canadian industries that confronted bigger tariff cuts. Nevertheless, greater than half of this impact is accounted for by reductions within the influx of recent staff into the trade somewhat than by job destruction. Since these new entrants weren’t employed previous to the FTA, they aren’t included in the principle evaluation. This discovering and people mentioned earlier suggest that the advantages of liberalisation accrued most strongly to high-attachment staff, whereas the prices fell totally on low-attachment staff and new entrants.


The literature on the labour market results of commerce liberalisation would possibly lead readers to conclude that import competitors usually has giant and persistently damaging results on affected staff. Our findings on the results of CUSFTA on Canadian staff are extra optimistic. Though the shock we think about was greater than 4 instances bigger than the China shock and staff skilled a heightened likelihood of displacement from their preliminary jobs, they have been capable of shortly discover various employment in additional favourably affected sectors. Elevated export publicity to US markets additional smoothed this adjustment. This expertise is extra according to the German expertise studied by Dauth et al. (2014, 2021) and highlights the range of potential responses to commerce shocks throughout completely different contexts.


Autor, D (2017), “Classes from the China shock”, 

Autor, D H, D Dorn, G H Hanson and J Music (2014), “Commerce adjustment: Employee stage proof”, Quarterly Journal of Economics 129(4): 1799–860.

Brandilly, P, C Hémet and C Malgouyres (2022), “Understanding the reallocation of displaced staff to corporations”,, 2 April.

Dauth, W, S Findeisen and J Suedekum (2014), “The rise of the East and the Far East: German labor markets and commerce integration”, Journal of the European Financial Affiliation 12(6): 1643–75.

Dauth, W, S Findeisen and J Suedekum (2021), “Adjusting to globalization in Germany”, Journal of Labor Economics 1(39): 263–302.

Dix-Carneiro, R, and B Ok Kovak (2017a), “Commerce liberalization and regional dynamics”, American Financial Evaluation 107(10): 2908–46.

Dix-Carneiro, R, and B Ok Kovak (2017b), “Margins of labour market adjustment to commerce”,, 23 August.

Sofa, Ok A, and D W Placzek (2010), “Earnings losses of displaced staff revisited”, American Financial Evaluation 100(1): 572–89.

Forsey, E A (2020), How Canadians govern themselves, tenth version, Library of Parliament.

Jacobson, L S, R J LaLonde and D G Sullivan (1993), “Earnings losses of displaced staff”, American Financial Evaluation 83(4): 685–709.

Kovak, B Ok, and P M Morrow (2022), “The long-run labor market results of the Canada-US Free Commerce Settlement”, NBER Working Paper 29793.

Lachowska, M, A Mas and S A Woodbury (2020), “Sources of displaced staff’ long-term earnings losses”, American Financial Evaluation 110(10): 3231–66.

Lileeva, A, and D Trefler (2010), “Improved entry to overseas markets raises plant-level productiveness…for some crops”, Quarterly Journal of Economics 125(3): 1051–99.

Morici, P (1990), “The setting without cost commerce”, in Peter Morici (ed.), Making Free Commerce Work: The Canada-US Settlement, New York: Council on International Relations.

Sears, R (2012), “The nice free-trade election of 1988”, Globe and Mail, 1 October.

Stolper, W F, and P A Samuelson (1941), “Safety and actual wages”, Evaluation of Financial Research 9(1): 58–73.

Utar, H (2014), “When the floodgates open: Northern corporations’ response to elimination of commerce quotas on Chinese language items”, American Financial Journal: Utilized Economics 6(4): 226–50.

Utar, H (2018a), “Employees beneath the floodgates: Low-wage import competitors and staff’ adjustment”, Evaluation of Economics and Statistics 100(4): 631–47.

Utar, H (2018b), “You might be wanted however not your abilities: Challenges to manufacturing staff within the wake of globalization”,, 6 December.


1 Though the invoice handed the Conservative-led Home of Commons, Liberals within the Canadian Senate blocked the invoice – one thing that had not occurred to any invoice in the course of the previous 40 years (Forsey 2020). 

2 The tariff adjustments have been everlasting, finally being integrated into the North American Free Commerce Settlement (NAFTA).

3 Following ADHS (2014), we outline low-attachment staff as these incomes lower than the equal of 1,600 annual hours on the minimal wage in any pre-FTA yr, 1985-1988. For context, girls and youth usually tend to be low-attachment staff. 

4 Results are prorated by 16/(variety of years) in order that outcomes don’t mechanically improve over time.



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