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Keywords:

  • learning;
  • trade liberalisation;
  • democracy;
  • dictatorship;
  • developing countries

Abstract

In this article, the probability of opening to trade is related to a country's propensity to learn from other countries in its region. It is argued that countries have different motivations to learn, depending upon the responsiveness and accountability of their political regimes. Whereas democracies cannot afford to be dogmatic, authoritarian regimes are less motivated to learn from the experience of others, even if they embrace policies that fail. Using data on trade liberalisation for 57 developing countries in the period 1970–1999, it is found that democracies confronting economic crises are more likely to liberalise trade as a result of learning; among democracies, presidential systems seem to learn more, whereas personalist dictatorial regimes are the most resistant to learning from the experience of others.