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8.2 Domestic Production Subsidies

Learning Objectives

  1. Distinguish domestic production subsidies from export policies.
  2. Describe the motivations for government use of production subsidies.

A domestic production subsidyA payment made by a government to firms in a particular industry based on output or production levels. is a payment made by a government to firms in a particular industry based on the level of output or production. The subsidy can be specified either as an ad valorem subsidy (a percentage of the value of production) or as a specific subsidy (a dollar payment per unit of output). A domestic production subsidy is different from an export subsidy. A production subsidy provides a payment based on all production regardless of where it is sold. An export subsidy, on the other hand, only offers a payment to the quantity or value that is actually exported. An export subsidy is classified as a trade policy, whereas a production subsidy is a domestic policy.

Domestic production subsidies are generally used for two main reasons. First, subsidies provide a way of raising the incomes of producers in a particular industry. This is in part why many countries apply production subsidies on agricultural commodities: it raises the incomes of farmers. The second reason to use production subsidies is to stimulate output of a particular good. This might be done because the product is assumed to be critical for national security. This argument is sometimes used to justify subsidies to agricultural goods, as well as steel, motor vehicles, the aerospace industry, and many other products. Countries might also wish to subsidize certain industries if it is believed that the industries are important in stimulating growth of the economy. This is the reason many companies receive research and development (R&D) subsidies. Although R&D subsidies are not strictly production subsidies, they can have similar effects.

We will analyze the international trade effects of a domestic production subsidy using a partial equilibrium analysis. We will assume that the market in question is perfectly competitive and that the country is “small.” We will also ignore any benefits the policy may generate, such as creating a more pleasing distribution of income or generating valuable external effects. Instead, we will focus entirely on the producer, consumer, and government revenue effects of each policy.

Next, we consider the effects of a production subsidy under two separate scenarios. In the first case, the subsidy is implemented in a country that is not trading with the rest of the world. This case is used to show how a domestic policy can cause international trade. The second case considers the price and welfare effects of a production subsidy implemented by a country that is initially importing the good from the rest of the world.

Key Takeaways

  • Domestic production subsidies are paid to firms for producing a product, whereas export subsidies are paid only to firms that export the product.
  • The export subsidy is classified as a trade policy, whereas the production subsidy is a domestic policy.
  • Production subsidies are used either to support the incomes within a sector or to stimulate production because it is believed that production will have a subsequent benefit.

Exercise

  1. Jeopardy Questions. As in the popular television game show, you are given an answer to a question and you must respond with the question. For example, if the answer is “a tax on imports,” then the correct question is “What is a tariff?”

    1. The term describing the type of payment made by a government to a firm for each unit of a good the firm produces.
    2. The term describing the type of payment made by a government to a firm as a percentage of the value of a good the firm produces.
    3. Of domestic policy or trade policy, this describes a production subsidy.
    4. Of domestic policy or trade policy, this describes a specific export subsidy.