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South Asia: Does Preferential Trade Liberalisation Make Sense?


  • Arvind Panagariya


This paper systematically analyses the issue of trade liberalisation in the South Asia region and offers a qualitative assessment of alternative approaches. I compare two broad approaches to trade liberalisation: non-discriminatory and preferential. The former approach can be pursued on a unilateral basis by each country in the region, on a concerted basis by the countries in the region, or multilateral basis under the auspices of the WTO. The latter approach can take the form of criss-crossing bilateral free trade areas between various countries in the region or a region-wide free trade area. The view I take in the paper is that the move towards preferential trading is a mistake, at least from the viewpoint of India. India continues to have very high trade barriers so that the scope for trade diversion and the losses accompanying it are likely to be considerable. Business lobbies being relatively powerful in most of the countries in the region, they are likely to exploit the rules of origin and sectoral exceptions in these arrangements in ways that will maximise trade diversion and minimise trade creation. Inasmuch as the rules of origin give bureaucrats power, employment and opportunities to share in the rents created by tariff preferences, they too will become active parties to the diversionary tactics of business lobbies. Therefore, the member countries are better advised to proceed along non-discriminatory lines in achieving further liberalisation. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2003.

Suggested Citation

  • Arvind Panagariya, 2003. "South Asia: Does Preferential Trade Liberalisation Make Sense?," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(9), pages 1279-1291, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:worlde:v:26:y:2003:i:9:p:1279-1291

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dennis C. Mueller (ed.), 2001. "The Economics of Politics," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, volume 0, number 2132.
    2. Frankel, Jeffrey & Stein, Ernesto & Wei, Shang-jin, 1995. "Trading blocs and the Americas: The natural, the unnatural, and the super-natural," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 61-95, June.
    3. Lawrence H. Summers, 1991. "Regionalism and the world trading system," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 295-301.
    4. Rupa Duttagupta & Arvind Panagariya, 2007. "Free Trade Areas And Rules Of Origin: Economics And Politics," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(2), pages 169-190, July.
    5. Paul R. Krugman, 1991. "The move toward free trade zones," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 7-58.
    6. Jiandong Ju & Kala Krishna, 2005. "Firm behaviour and market access in a Free Trade Area with rules of origin," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 38(1), pages 290-308, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jose Daniel Rodríguez-Delgado, 2007. "Safta; Living in a World of Regional Trade Agreements," IMF Working Papers 07/23, International Monetary Fund.
    2. Nilanjan Banik & John Gilbert, 2010. "Regional Integration and Trade Costs in South Asia," Chapters,in: Trade Facilitation and Regional Cooperation in Asia, chapter 4 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Sharma, Anupa & Grant, Jason & Boys, Kathryn, 2015. "Truly Preferential Treatment? Reconsidering the Generalized System of (Trade) Preferences," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205890, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association;Western Agricultural Economics Association.
    4. World Bank, 2010. "Food Price Increases in South Asia : National Responses and Regional Dimensions," World Bank Other Operational Studies 2885, The World Bank.
    5. Hossain, Sharif M., 2009. "South Asian Free Trade Area: Implications for Bangladesh," MPRA Paper 18517, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Pradeep S Mehta & Pranav Kumar, 2004. "RTAs and South Asia: Options in the Wake of Cancun Fiasco," ASARC Working Papers 2004-11, The Australian National University, Australia South Asia Research Centre.

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    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F2 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business


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