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This paper studies how comparative advantage and the political elites' endowments shape long-run performance in an economy with imperfect political institutions. In a capital-scarce economy, an autocrat catering to the needs of landowners favours openness to trade at an early stage of development, while an autocrat complying with the preferences of capitalists chooses to shelter the economy from trade. The trade regime interacts with economic institutions, and with policies on capital mobility,doi:10.2139/ssrn.1938180 fatcat:kmbqgixbujabpgzvcyvvpkcu3i