Rethinking Trade and Commercial Policy Theories
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Rethinking Trade and Commercial Policy Theories

Development Perspectives

P. Sai-wing Ho

This controversial book offers a unique approach to rethinking the trade and development literature and will therefore strongly appeal to researchers, academics, and students of trade and development as well as those involved in the history of economic thought.
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Chapter 4: Torrens: Trade, Uneven Development, Commercial Reciprocity and Colonisation

P. Sai-wing Ho


4. Torrens: Trade, Uneven Development, Commercial Reciprocity, and Colonisation 4.1 INTRODUCTION l As noted in section 2.2 above, when the mainstream interpretation of the history of classical trade theories gains currency, the contributions to developing mainstream trade analysis by other 'minor figures' can readily be assessed. To repeat, in the case of Torrens he has been partially rehabilitated in the mainstream economists' esteem because he is regarded by some to have antedated Ricardo in the formulation of the doctrine of comparative advantage. He might be the first to think of 'reciprocal demand' as constituting the solution to the international value problem and was among the first to consider the possibility that a tariff might tum the terms of trade in favour of the country imposing it. However, these rehabilitation exercises have only aimed at singling out those contributions of his which are related to mainstream trade theories. Not surprisingly, Torrens's analyses have typically been removed from the original context of discussion, and this has inevitably obfuscated some of his messages. Even Robbins (1958), who has by far offered the most comprehensive assessment o~ Torrens's works,2 does not seem to constitute an exception. Specifically, while he ardently directs attention to Torrens's discussion of the static gains from trade (ibid., Ch. II, parts 4 and 6), he does not seriously heed the role played by his (Torrens's) distribution theory in shaping his trade analysis. 3 In a footnote attached to the end of the first paragraph of Ch. III (ibid.), a...

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