The rise and fall of import substitution

Working Paper
July 2020
Photo Credit: 
REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

In the 1950s, many economists believed that import substitution—policies to restrict imports of manufactured goods—was the best trade strategy to promote industrialization and economic growth in developing countries. By the mid-1960s, however, there was widespread disenchantment with the results of such a policy, even among its proponents. This paper traces the rise and fall of import substitution as a development idea. Perhaps surprisingly, early advocates of import substitution were quite cautious in their support for the policy and were also among the first to question it based on evidence derived from country experiences.

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Douglas A. Irwin Senior Research Staff

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