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An Economic Theory of GATT

  • Robert W. Staiger
  • Kyle Bagwell

The authors propose a unified theoretical framework within which to interpret and evaluate the foundational principles of GATT. Working within a general equilibrium trade model, they represent government preferences in a way that is consistent with national income maximization but also allows for the possibility of distributional concerns as emphasized in leading political-economy models. Using this general framework, the authors establish that GATT's principles of reciprocity and nondiscrimination can be viewed as simple rules that assist governments in their effort to implement efficient trade agreements. From this perspective, the authors argue that preferential agreements undermine GATT's ability to deliver efficient multilateral outcomes.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 89 (1999)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 215-248

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:89:y:1999:i:1:p:215-248
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.89.1.215
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  1. Carsten Kowalczyk & Tomas Sjostrom, 1993. "Bringing GATT into the Core," NBER Working Papers 4343, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1996. "Reciprocal Trade Liberalization," Discussion Papers 1150, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  3. Robert W. Staiger & Kyle Bagwell, 1999. "An Economic Theory of GATT," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 215-248, March.
  4. McLaren, John, 1997. "Size, Sunk Costs, and Judge Bowker's Objection to Free Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 400-420, June.
  5. Baldwin, Richard, 1987. "Politically realistic objective functions and trade policy PROFs and tariffs," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 287-290.
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  9. Dixit, Avinash & Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1997. "Common Agency and Coordination: General Theory and Application to Government Policy Making," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(4), pages 752-69, August.
  10. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1997. "Regionalism and Multilateral Tariff Cooperation," NBER Working Papers 5921, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. John Whalley, 1998. "Why Do Countries Seek Regional Trade Agreements?," NBER Chapters, in: The Regionalization of the World Economy, pages 63-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Gros, Daniel, 1987. "A note on the optimal tariff, retaliation and the welfare loss from tariff wars in a framework with intra-industry trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3-4), pages 357-367, November.
  13. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1993. "Multilateral Tariff Cooperation During the Formation of Free Trade Areas," Discussion Papers 1048, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  14. Robert C. Feenstra, 1995. "Estimating the Effects of Trade Policy," NBER Working Papers 5051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Robert W. Staiger, 1994. "International Rules and Institutions for Trade Policy," NBER Working Papers 4962, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1995. "Trade Wars and Trade Talks," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 675-708, August.
  17. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1993. "Multilateral Tariff Cooperation during the Formation of Customs Unions," NBER Working Papers 4543, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1989. "A Theory of Managed Trade," Discussion Papers 801, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  19. Fernandez, Raquel & Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Resistance to Reform: Status Quo Bias in the Presence of Individual-Specific Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1146-55, December.
  20. Berry, S. & Linsohn, J. & Pakes, A., 1997. "Voluntary Export Restraints on Automobiles: Evaluating a Strategic Trade Policy," Working Papers 393, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  21. Richard E. Caves, 1976. "Economic Models of Political Choice: Canada's Tariff Structure," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 9(2), pages 278-300, May.
  22. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1997. "Reciprocity, Non-discrimination and Preferential Agreements in the Multilateral Trading System," NBER Working Papers 5932, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Grossman, G.M. & Helpman, E., 1992. "Protection for Sale," Papers 162, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  24. Hillman, Arye L, 1982. "Declining Industries and Political-Support Protectionist Motives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 1180-87, December.
  25. Ronald Findlay & Stanislaw Wellisz, 1982. "Endogenous Tariffs, the Political Economy of Trade Restrictions, and Welfare," NBER Chapters, in: Import Competition and Response, pages 223-244 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Paul Krugman, 1997. "Why Should Trade Negotiators Negotiate About?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(1), pages 113-120, March.
  27. Mayer, Wolfgang, 1984. "Endogenous Tariff Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(5), pages 970-85, December.
  28. Goldberg, Pinelopi Koujianou, 1995. "Product Differentiation and Oligopoly in International Markets: The Case of the U.S. Automobile Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 891-951, July.
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  30. Mayer, Wolfgang, 1981. "Theoretical Considerations on Negotiated Tariff Adjustments," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(1), pages 135-53, March.
  31. Bond, Eric W. & Syropoulos, Constantinos, 1996. "The size of trading blocs Market power and world welfare effects," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-4), pages 411-437, May.
  32. Staiger, Robert W & Tabellini, Guido, 1987. "Discretionary Trade Policy and Excessive Protection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 823-37, December.
  33. Winters, L. Alan & Won Chang, 1997. "Regional integration and the prices of imports : an empirical investigation," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1782, The World Bank.
  34. Robert C. Feenstra & Jagdish N. Bhagwati, 1982. "Tariff Seeking and the Efficient Tariff," NBER Chapters, in: Import Competition and Response, pages 245-262 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  35. 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.
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