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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. Bond, E. & Syropoulos, C., 1993. "Trading Blocs and the Sustainability of Inter-Regional Cooperation," Discussion Papers 93-17, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
  2. Robert C. Feenstra, 1995. "Estimating the Effects of Trade Policy," NBER Working Papers 5051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  5. 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.
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  9. Grossman, Gene & Helpman, Elhanan, 1993. "Protection for Sale," CEPR Discussion Papers 827, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  11. Kowalczyk, Carsten & Sjostrom, Tomas, 1994. "Bringing GATT into the Core," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 61(243), pages 301-17, August.
  12. 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.
  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. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1997. "Regionalism and Multilateral Tariff Cooperation," NBER Working Papers 5921, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1993. "Trade Wars and Trade Talks," NBER Working Papers 4280, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Bagwell, Kyle & Staiger, Robert, 1994. "Multilateral Tariff Cooperation During the Formation of Customs Unions," CEPR Discussion Papers 962, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  17. Dixit, Avinash & Grossman, Gene M. & Helpman, Elhanan, 1997. "Common Agency and Coordination: General Theory and Application to Government Policy Making," Scholarly Articles 3450061, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  20. Mayer, Wolfgang, 1984. "Endogenous Tariff Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(5), pages 970-85, December.
  21. Giovanni Maggi & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 1998. "The Value of Trade Agreements in the Presence of Political Pressures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(3), pages 574-601, June.
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  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
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  29. 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.
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  31. 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.
  32. Hillman, Arye L, 1982. "Declining Industries and Political-Support Protectionist Motives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 1180-87, December.
  33. 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.
  34. Baldwin, Richard, 1987. "Politically realistic objective functions and trade policy PROFs and tariffs," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 287-290.
  35. 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.
  36. 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.
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