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The WTO agreement on rules of origin: Implications for South Asia


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  • K.N. Harilal

    (Centre for Development Studies)

  • P.L. Beena

    (Centre for Development Studies)

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    From neutral trade policy devices employed to identity country of origin of commodities, the rules of origin are emerging as protectionist tools. Nation-states, as they are increasingly denied of conventional trade policy tools, are reasserting themselves by evolving new and less visible weapons of intervention. The misuse of rules of origin as protectionist tools is widely reported from PTAs among developed countries, such as EEC and NAFTA. More recently, non-preferential rules of origin are also being used for protectionist purpose. It is such protectionist adaptation of the rules of origin that prompted the WTO to launch the HWP to evolve common rules of origin for all countries. The present study is a critique of the harmonization work programme. The central objective of the ARO and also the HWP is to ensure that the rules of origin are employed without/ or with least trade distorting effects. But, as our study shows, it would be too optimistic to expect such an outcome from the HWP. On the contrary, even if it is successfully completed, the HWP is likely to leave considerable scope for misuse of rules of origin for protectionist purpose. Further, the new multilateral regime, even if it succeeds in establishing semblance of an order in the arena of rules of origin, is likely to have unequal effects on members. The moot question is as to whether the adopted harmonised rules match the trading interests of the developing nations. The picture emerging from our analysis of outstanding disputes is not very encouraging for the developing countries. They belong mainly to the traditional areas of western protectionism against developing countries. The fear that the developed countries are trying to manipulate rules of origin to compensate for the loss of tariff and other conventional barriers, therefore, cannot be ruled out.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Centre for Development Studies, Trivendrum, India in its series Centre for Development Studies, Trivendrum Working Papers with number 353.

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    Length: 64 pages
    Date of creation: Dec 2003
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ind:cdswpp:353

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    Keywords: World Trade Organisation; Protectionism; Rules of Origin; Harmonisation Work Programme; Nationality of Products; Wholly Obtained Goods; Substantial Transformation; Trade in Textile Articles;

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    1. Paul Brenton & Miriam Manchin, 2002. "Making EU Trade Agreements Work: The Role of Rules of Origin," wiiw Balkan Observatory Working Papers 27, The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, wiiw.
    2. Paul Brenton & Miriam Manchin, 2002. "Making EU Trade Agreements Work: The Role of Rules of Origin," International Trade 0203003, EconWPA.
    3. repec:wii:bpaper:bowp:027 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:
    1. Dorothea C. Lazaro & Erlinda M. Medalla, 2006. "Rules of Origin - Evolving Best Practices for RTAs/FTAs," Trade Working Papers 22006, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
    2. Medalla, Erlinda M. & Supperamaniam, M., 2008. "Suggested Rules of Origin Regime for EAFTA," Discussion Papers DP 2008-22, Philippine Institute for Development Studies.
    3. Medalla, Erlinda M. & Balboa, Jenny D., 2009. "ASEAN Rules of Origin: Lessons and Recommendations for Best Practice," Discussion Papers DP 2009-36, Philippine Institute for Development Studies.
    4. Hazel Parcon, 2008. "Disaggregating PTAs at the Role of International Division of Labor on PTA Formation," Working Papers 200806, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
    5. Medalla, Erlinda M., 2008. "Rules of Origin: Regimes in East Asia and Recommendations for Best Practice," Discussion Papers DP 2008-19, Philippine Institute for Development Studies.


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