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Assessing World Bank Support for Trade, 1987-2004 : An IEG Evaluation


  • Independent Evaluation Group


This evaluation of the Bank's assistance on trade-related issues focuses on the period between fiscal years 1987 and 2004. The majority of developing countries have significantly improved their environment for trade and economic growth, following over two decades of assistance from the Bank in trade reform. Arguably, the developing world is more open today than at any time in recent memory. Developing countries have more than doubled their exports since the mid-1980s, helping many of them to grow steadily. Exports and imports have risen as a share of the gross domestic product (GDP) across a wide range of countries, fueled in part by China's remarkable trade performance, and the growth in services trade. Trade policies have also been significantly liberalized. Average import tariffs have fallen steadily over the period, although the fall in other forms of protection has been more gradual. Between fiscal years 1987 and 2004, about 8.1 percent of total Bank commitments went to 117 countries to help them better integrate into the global economy. This financing has been accompanied by a large volume of analysis in operational economic and sector work (ESW), research publications on trade, and working papers on trade-related topics. During the first phase (starting in the 1980s), the Bank focused largely on the traditional trade agenda related to opening up economies. During the second phase, from the mid- to late-1990s, the Bank's emphasis on trade declined, although the impact of earlier trade reforms was still playing out. In the third phase, initiated with the collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Seattle trade ministerial meeting in 1999, growing pressure to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and interest from development partners (notably bilateral donors), led the Bank to reappraise its trade activities. This phase has focused on the global trading system, and "behind-the-border barriers" to trade. The Bank's trade activities during the period were led by a grade policy reform package supported by four components: import-related; export-related; exchange rate and foreign exchange management; and, industrial and other supporting policies. This assessment reviews project-related outcomes and outputs, to focus on the progress toward a more development-friendly trading. Recommendations include addressing poverty-distributional outcomes and external shocks in a balanced approach; revisiting the balance between global and country agendas, and strengthening operational links on trade issues; and, strengthening knowledge management efforts.

Suggested Citation

  • Independent Evaluation Group, 2006. "Assessing World Bank Support for Trade, 1987-2004 : An IEG Evaluation," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6966, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbpubs:6966

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    References listed on IDEAS

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