I am an MA student in Political Science at the University of Toronto. My research interests include International Relations, Canadian Politics and Public Policy, with a focus on the politics of trade agreements and sanctions. I have a Master in Statistics from the Catholic University of Chile and an Engineering degree from the University of Chile. I can provide my CV (academic/professional) upon request. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org (please remove the +removethis).
Because of the quantitative nature of my research, I have developed a strong interest in data science and programming. You can check my GitHub profile, where I have organized my open source projects, most of them are related to gravity estimation besides data wrangling with R and data visualization with Shiny. This is detailed in the Open Source section.
I also have a blog where I organize different notes, such as Creating LaTeX figures with Inkscape, A Crash Course on PostgreSQL for R Users, and A step by step guide to write an R package that uses C++ code (Ubuntu).
Trivia: My blog Comparing SQLite, DuckDB and Arrow with UN Trade Data made it to the top ten on Hacker News.
International Relations: Trade Agreements, Sanctions, Tariff and Non-Tariff Measures.
Canadian Politics: Advocacy Coalitions, Federal Hubs, CAN-USA-MEX Transnational Policymaking.
Public Policy: Public-Private Trade Programs, Exports Diversification and Sustainability, Labour Reconversion.
Research Methods: Generalized Linear Models, Structural Gravity Model, General Equilibrium Estimation.
Wölwer, A.L., Burgard, J.P., Kunst, J., and Vargas Sepúlveda, M. “Gravity: Estimation Methods for Gravity Models in R.” Journal of Open Source Software 3, no. 31 (November 19, 2018): 1038. https://doi.org/10.21105/joss.01038.
Vargas Sepúlveda, M. “Economic Effects of Chile FTAs and an Eventual CTPP Accession.” arXiv, September 28, 2022. https://doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2209.14748.
Vargas Sepúlveda, M. “NAFTA is the Worst Trade Deal in the History of Trade Deals, Maybe Ever.” University of Toronto, 2023.
Vargas Sepúlveda, M. “Gravity Modelling Into R: Strengthening Analytical Capacity of ESCAP Member States.” UN ESCAP and P. U. Católica de Chile, 2021.
Since the end of World War II, sanctions have increased in number, but their effectiveness has decreased (The Economist 2021), which raises the question whether policy makers implement sanctions to satisfy domestic coalitions or achieve other goals. The economic consequences of sanctions can be explored at the sectoral level, distinguishing categories such as agriculture, energy, manufacturing, mining, and services. The current political and economic order justifies the need to account for the interdependence between different sectors of a national economy in global trade (Sbragia 2010; Vargas Sepúlveda 2020).
I propose the thesis project “Trade Sanctions and Rule-Making,” where I shall answer the question “Who wins and who loses with sanctions?” I will focus on trade sanctions between political allies and the variation of effects between industries. This will uncover general patterns about how these mechanisms work, and to explain why and when policymakers deviate from World Trade Organization practices that reduce global trade uncertainty. The project is relevant due to the spiking complexity of global sanctions (Morgan, Syropoulos, and Yotov 2022; Coates 2022; Ossa 2014) and the rise of protectionism (Walter 2021; Fajgelbaum et al. 2020).
I intend to explore how Generalized Linear Models, in particular the Structural Gravity Model (Burgard et al. 2018), can be used to computationally simulate the impact of political decisions, such as a sanction being implemented. The model shows how the resulting changes in one sector in one country causes a chain reaction with consequences in GDP and other measures of economic welfare for third party countries (Vargas Sepúlveda 2021; Larch et al. 2016).
I aim to corroborate and expand existing sanctions databases (Felbermayr et al. 2020) and commodities trade data (Borchert et al. 2021). I intend to produce accurate sectoral trade databases for most of or all UN countries. One core feature of my work will be correcting mismatches in the data between importers and exporters, and cover as many gaps as possible by using administrative data from the UN and state-of-the-art linear models for imputation.
A comprehensive depiction at the sectoral level will enable me to study specific sanctions’ impact and explore how policy toolkits affect different actors, ideas, and institutions (Lasswell 1970), and to balance theory and information-gathering (Simeon 1976). My contribution will be to integrate our political and economic understanding of sanctions, by creating a methodology to estimate the impact of sanctions that policy makers could use to evaluate the effectiveness, success, and impact of their agendas.
Borchert, Ingo, Mario Larch, Serge Shikher, and Yoto V. Yotov. 2021. “The International Trade and Production Database for Estimation (ITPD-E).” International Economics (Paris) 166: 140–66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.inteco.2020.08.001.
Burgard, Jan Pablo, Joshua Kunst, Mauricio Vargas Sepúlveda, and Anna Lenna Woelwer. 2018. “Gravity: Estimation Methods for Gravity Models in R.” Journal of Open Source Software 31 (3): 1038. https://doi.org/10.21105/joss.01038.
Coates, Benjamin. 2022. “A Century of Sanctions.” Origins. https://origins.osu.edu/article/economic-sanctions-history-trump-global?language_content_entity=en.
Fajgelbaum, Pablo D., Pinelopi K. Goldberg, Patrick J. Kennedy, and Amit K. Khandelwal. 2020. “The Return to Protectionism.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 135 (1): 1–55. https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjz036.
Felbermayr, Gabriel, Aleksandra Kirilakha, Constantinos Syropoulos, Erdal Yalcin, and Yoto V. Yotov. 2020. “The Global Sanctions Data Base.” European Economic Review 129: 103561–61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euroecorev.2020.103561.
Larch, Mario, José-Antonio Monteiro, Roberta Piermartini, and Yoto V Yotov. 2016. An Advanced Guide to Trade Policy Analysis: The Structural Gravity Model. World Trade Organization Geneva. https://vi.unctad.org/tpa/web/vol2/vol2home.html.
Lasswell, Harold D. 1970. “The Emerging Conception of the Policy Sciences.” Policy Sciences 1 (1): 3–14. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00145189.
Morgan, T. Clifton, Constantinos Syropoulos, and Yoto Yotov. 2022. “Economic Sanctions: Evolution, Consequences, and Challenges.” School of Economics Working Paper Series, November. https://ideas.repec.org//p/ris/drxlwp/2022_012.html.
Ossa, Ralph. 2014. “Trade Wars and Trade Talks with Data.” American Economic Review 104 (12): 4104–46. https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.104.12.4104.
Sbragia, Alberta. 2010. “The EU, the US, and Trade Policy: Competitive Interdependence in the Management of Globalization.” Journal of European Public Policy 17 (3): 368–82. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501761003662016.
Simeon, Richard. 1976. “Studying Public Policy.” Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue Canadienne de Science Politique 9 (4): 548–80. https://doi.org/10.1017/S000842390004470X.
The Economist. 2021. “Sanctions Are Now a Central Tool of Governments’ Foreign Policy.” The Economist. https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2021/04/22/sanctions-are-now-a-central-tool-of-governments-foreign-policy.
Vargas Sepúlveda, Mauricio. 2020. Leontief: Input-Output Analysis. https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=leontief.
———. 2021. Solutions Manual for An Advanced Guide to Trade Policy Analysis in R. 2nd ed. UN ESCAP. https://r.tiid.org/R_structural_gravity/.
Walter, Stefanie. 2021. “The Backlash Against Globalization.” Annual Review of Political Science 24 (1): 421–42. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-polisci-041719-102405.
I maintain the WebTechnologies view and the official mirror for Chile.
I created the R package varsityblues, which allows you to write assignments, presentations and thesis in RStudio by following UofT formatting. This allows the user to avoid copy-pasting tables or plots from R outputs into Word/LaTeX documents. Instead, it allows the user to work with notebooks that they can export to PDF, and it configures the LaTeX setup automatically.
This package is based on the LaTeX style files that were sent to me by the late Professor Kim C. Border.
I created images for RStudio Server and RStudio Server + Kubernetes, which allows you to create virtual machines on DigitalOcean and to skip the setup time to install the Tidyverse and other packages. With these images, it takes around 30 seconds to have a ready to go setup for Data Science. This combines well with analogsea as I explained in my blog.
In simple terms, this allows you to rent a supercomputer, for example, with 48 cores and 200 GB in RAM, for a reasonable price and minimal waiting.
The tables provided here were reshaped under Cobb's Normal Form, and in some cases contain corrections that I explain in the project repository. The specific sources are the Gravity database from the Center for Prospective Studies and International Information (CEPII), the International Trade and Production Database for Estimation (ITPD-E) and the Dynamic Gravity Database (DGD) from the US International Trade Commission (USITC), and the Structural Gravity Database (SGD) from the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Since 2017 I've maintained Open Trade Statistics, a project created with the intention to lower the barrier to working with international economic trade data. It includes a public API, a dashboard, and an R package for data retrieval. The project started when I was affected by the fact that many Latin American Universities have limited or no access to the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UN COMTRADE).
OTS provides a curated database derived from UN COMTRADE. I can provide a full SQL dump of the database or share subsets of the database for the period 2002-2020 aggregated by countries or by products up to a detail of six digits in the Harmonised System revision 2012.
After contacting UN COMTRADE, and suggesting to them my idea of sharing trade data but keeping commercial purposes out of the scope of the project, I got an authorization to share curated versions of their datasets.
Check SQL Databases for students and educators if you need access to PostgreSQL databases.
Publicly accessible databases often impose query limits or require registration. Even when I maintain public and limit-free APIs, I never wanted to host a public database because the connection string can be problematic for users.
Vargas Sepúlveda, M. Solutions Manual for An Advanced Guide to Trade Policy Analysis in R. 2nd ed. Bangkok: UN ESCAP, 2022. https://r.tiid.org/R_structural_gravity/.
Burchell, J. and Vargas Sepúlveda, M. The Hitchhiker's Guide to Plotnine. 1st ed. Victoria: Leanpub, 2019. https://leanpub.com/ggplot-guide.
Quiroga, R. Sandoval, G., Vargas Sepúlveda, M. R para Ciencia de Datos: Soluciones de los ejercicios. 1st ed. Santiago: Self-Published, 2019. https://r4ds-soluciones.netlify.app/.
Quiroga, R., et al. R Para Ciencia de Datos (Translation). 1st ed. Santiago: Self-Published, 2019. https://es.r4ds.hadley.nz/.
Burchell, J. and Vargas Sepúlveda, M. The Hitchhiker's Guide to Ggplot2. 1st ed. Victoria: Leanpub, 2016. https://leanpub.com/ggplot-guide.
I offer short courses for groups and individual personalized sessions at Buy Me a Coffee. I am a certified Tidyverse and Shiny instructor by RStudio and a Software Carpentry Instructor.