Did Depreciation of the Dollar Render the Steel VRA's Nonbinding?

Authors:
Oliver Grawe, Dolly Howarth, and Morris Morkre
Working Paper:
208

One of the puzzles about the recent steel VRAs is whether they limited imports toward the end of the 1980s. The 36 percent depreciation of the dollar between 1984 and 1989 is believed to have rendered the VRAs ineffective by 1989. This paper estimates the effect of the dollar depreciation on the steel VRAs using a computable, partial equilibrium model. We find that depreciation alone was not sufficient to render the VRAs ineffective. This result is due to the following. First, only part of the changes in exchange rates were passed through to domestic prices. We believe that for steel partial pass through is explained by globalization of markets for the major inputs (e.g., iron ore) consumed by steel firms worldwide. Second, steel is an intermediate product widely used by tradables industries. A dollar depreciation causes domestic steel-using industries to expand. What happens to steel imports is unclear a priori.