Tariffs, International Trade and Game Theory

  If you were in charge… If you oversaw your own country, what trade policy would you pursue?  Would you be friendly and cooperative or unfriendly and betraying?  Maximizing your country’s payoff may be more difficult than imagined.  Game theory can be used to measure success and failure.  It can also validate just how hard it can be to strike the right balance and allow both trade partners to win.   The prisoner’s dilemma… The current trade and tariff dialogue between the U.S. and China is essentially a repeated prisoner’s dilemma – a workhorse model of game theory that captures the tradeoff between mutually beneficial cooperation and individually beneficial betrayal[1]. If played once, there is only one outcome where neither side can do better with a different strategy: both sides betray one another.  While unfriendly, the mutual betrayal results in equilibrium or balance.  The shortfall of playing one time as if there is no tomorrow, is that trading partners have an infinite number of days in which to trade goods. If prisoner’s dilemma is played multiple times, even infinitely, game Read on! →