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International Trade, Minimum Quality Standards and the Prisoners' Dilemma

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  • Dimitra Petropoulou

Abstract

Unilateral minimum quality standards are endogenously determined as the outcome of a non-cooperative standard-setting game between the governments of two countries. Cross-country externalities from the implementation of minimum quality standards are shown to give rise to a Prisoners' Dilemma structure in the incentives of policy-makers leading to inefficient policy outcomes. The role of minimum quality standards as non-tariff barriers is examined and the scope for mutual gains from reciprocal adjustment in minimum standards analysed. The analysis delivers four results. First, there exist four unregulated Nash equilibria in minimum standards, two symmetric and two asymmetric, depending on the quality ranking of firms in each market. The analysis establishes that in all four cases, unilaterally selected minimum quality standards are inefficient as a result of cross-country externalities. Second, minimum quality standards are shown to operate as non-tariff barriers to trade. Third, the world welfare maximising symmetric standard can be reached through reciprocal adjustments in national minimum standards from either of the two symmetric Nash equilibria. Finally, the scope for mutually beneficial cooperation is shown to be significantly restricted when cross-country externalities are asymmetric. Asymmetric externalities make a cooperative agreement at the world optimum infeasible.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0858.

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Date of creation: Feb 2008
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0858

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Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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Keywords: standards; quality; international trade; standard coordination;

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  1. Uri Ronnen, 1991. "Minimum Quality Standards, Fixed Costs, and Competition," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(4), pages 490-504, Winter.
  2. Lutz, Stefan & Lyon, Thomas P & Maxwell, John W, 2000. "Quality Leadership When Regulatory Standards Are Forthcoming," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(3), pages 331-48, September.
  3. Boom, Anette, 1995. "Asymmetric International Minimum Quality Standards and Vertical Differentiation," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(1), pages 101-19, March.
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  14. Shaked, Avner & Sutton, John, 1982. "Relaxing Price Competition through Product Differentiation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(1), pages 3-13, January.
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  16. Kennan, John & Riezman, Raymond, 1988. "Do Big Countries Win Tariff Wars?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 29(1), pages 81-85, February.
  17. David Hummels & Peter J. Klenow, 2005. "The Variety and Quality of a Nation's Exports," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 704-723, June.
  18. Herguera, Inigo & Kujal, Praveen & Petrakis, Emmanuel, 2002. "Tariffs, quality reversals and exit in vertically differentiated industries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 467-492, December.
  19. Motta, Massimo, 1993. "Endogenous Quality Choice: Price vs. Quantity Competition," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(2), pages 113-31, June.
  20. Mayer, Wolfgang, 1981. "Theoretical Considerations on Negotiated Tariff Adjustments," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(1), pages 135-53, March.
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