Working Paper 63 - Trade, Trade Liberalisation and Economic Growth: Theory and Evidence
There can be little doubt that, historically, trade has acted as an important engine ofgrowth for countries at different stages of development, not only by contributing to a moreefficient allocation of resources within countries, but also by transmitting growth from onepart of the world to another. There are static and dynamic gains to be had from tradebetween countries but there is nothing in the theory of trade that says that the gains areequitably distributed. Also, there is nothing in the theory of Customs Unions that says thatthe gains from trade will be equitably distributed between members. Indeed, the CustomsUnion as a whole may be welfare-reducing if trade diversion exceeds trade creation. Recentresearch suggests that regional trade agreements, reduce growth and investment, butgeneralised trade liberalisation in the form of unilateral tariff reductions (or the reduction ofnon-tariff barriers to trade) improves growth performance. Export growth relax the balanceof payments constraint on demand by providing the foreign exchange to pay for the importcontent of higher levels of consumption, investment and government expenditure. Mostdeveloping countries are constrained in their growth performance by a shortage of foreignexchange and could therefore grow faster with more exports.
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