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Help or Hindrance? The Impact of Harmonised Standards on African Exports †


  • Witold Czubala
  • Ben Shepherd
  • John S. Wilson


We test the hypothesis that product standards harmonised to de facto international standards are less trade restrictive than ones that are not. To do this, we construct a new database of European Union (EU) product standards. We identify standards that are aligned with International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards (as a proxy for de facto international norms). We use a sample-selection gravity model to examine the impact of EU standards on African textiles and clothing exports, a sector of particular development interest. We find robust evidence that non-harmonised standards reduce African exports of these products. EU standards which are harmonised to ISO standards are less trade restricting. Our results suggest that efforts to promote African exports of manufactures may need to be complemented by measures to reduce the cost impacts of product standards, including international harmonisation. In addition, efforts to harmonise national standards with international norms, including those through the World Trade Organisation Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, promise concrete benefits through trade expansion. Copyright 2009 The author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Centre for the Study of African Economies. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Witold Czubala & Ben Shepherd & John S. Wilson, 2009. "Help or Hindrance? The Impact of Harmonised Standards on African Exports †," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 18(5), pages 711-744, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jafrec:v:18:y:2009:i:5:p:711-744

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Kareem, Olayinka Idowu, 2016. "Food safety regulations and fish trade: Evidence from European Union-Africa trade relations," Journal of Commodity Markets, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 18-25.
    2. Cristina Robledo-Ardila & Alejandro Londoño Avila, 2014. "International standard certifications and export performance of top four Colombian banana exporters," REVISTA CIENCIAS ESTRATÉGICAS, UNIVERSIDAD PONTIFICIA BOLIVARIANA, April.
    3. Anne-Célia Disdier & Lionel Fontagné & Olivier Cadot, 2015. "North-South Standards Harmonization and International Trade," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 29(2), pages 327-352.
    4. Susanne Fricke & Geoffrey Chapman, 2017. "The Role of Standards in North-South Trade: The Case of Agricultural Exports from Sub-Saharan African Countries to the EU," Jena Economic Research Papers 2017-011, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    5. Ehrich, Malte & Mangelsdorf, Axel, 2016. "The Role of Private Standards for Manufactured Food Exports from Developing Countries," Discussion Papers 243400, Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen, GlobalFood, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.
    6. repec:afe:journl:v:19:y:2017:i:1:p:61-83 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Chen, Natalie & Novy, Dennis, 2012. "On the measurement of trade costs: direct vs. indirect approaches to quantifying standards and technical regulations," World Trade Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(03), pages 401-414, July.
    8. Olivier Cadot & Julien Gourdon, 2016. "Non-tariff measures, preferential trade agreements, and prices: new evidence," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 152(2), pages 227-249, May.
    9. repec:hal:psewpa:hal-00961733 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Kareem, Fatima Olanike, 2017. "European Union’s SPS and TBT Measures, Gender Specific Obstacles and Agricultural Employment," EconStor Preprints 171726, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.
    11. Wilson, Norbert L. W., 2017. "Labels, Food Safety, and International Trade," ADBI Working Papers 657, Asian Development Bank Institute.
    12. Shepherd, Ben & Wilson, Norbert L.W., 2013. "Product standards and developing country agricultural exports: The case of the European Union," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 1-10.
    13. Micheline Goedhuys & Pierre Mohnen, 2017. "Management Standard Certification and Firm productivity: Micro-evidence from Africa," Journal of African Development, African Finance and Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 61-83.
    14. repec:hal:cesptp:hal-00961733 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Carrère, Céline & de Melo, Jaime, 2011. "Notes on Detecting The Effects of Non Tariff Measures," Journal of Economic Integration, Center for Economic Integration, Sejong University, vol. 26, pages 136-168.
    16. Fiankor, Dela-Dem Doe & Ehrich, Malte & Brümmer, Bernhard, 2016. "EU-African Regional Trade Agreements as a Development Tool to Reduce EU Border Rejections," Discussion Papers 244352, Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen, GlobalFood, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.
    17. Hu, Cui & Lin, Faqin & Tan, Yong & Tang, Yihong, 2017. "How Exporting Firms Respond to Technical Barriers to Trade?," MPRA Paper 80946, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Kang, Jong Woo & Ramizo, Dorothea, 2017. "Impact of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Technical Barriers on International Trade," MPRA Paper 82352, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Salamat Ali, 2016. "Export Response to Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Technical Barriers to Trade: Firm-level Evidence from a Developing Country," Discussion Papers 2016-02, University of Nottingham, CREDIT.
    20. Ederington,Josh & Ruta,Michele, 2016. "Non-tariff measures and the world trading system," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7661, The World Bank.

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