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An Economic Theory of GATT

Author

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  • Robert W. Staiger
  • Kyle Bagwell

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert W. Staiger & Kyle Bagwell, 1999. "An Economic Theory of GATT," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 215-248, March.
  • 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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    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F02 - International Economics - - General - - - International Economic Order and Integration

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