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Improving Market Access: The Role of Auctions in Converting Tariff-Rate Quotas into Single Tariffs


  • Joerin, Robert


Market access in the WTO is highly fragmented due to exceptions from GATT principles. Tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) stand in contradiction to the principle of the GATT, according to which all quantitative restrictions in international trade should be eliminated. Bhagwati’s theorem of the non-equivalence of tariffs and quotas leads to the conclusion that under imperfect competition, market access can be improved by converting TRQs into single tariffs. In order to find the ‘new’ tariff, Bergsten (1987) proposed to auction quotas and to use the realized auction price for setting the equivalent tariff. There is empirical evidence from auctions of TRQs in Switzerland that the observed auction prices are below the equivalent tariffs. This is in line with the analysis of McAfee et al. (1999) that auction prices are considered as a useful lower bound for determining the equivalent tariffs. A change from quotas to tariffs will hardly raise protection but it may reduce price support by the new tariff. As a consequence, a country which replaces TRQs by single tariffs through auctions, in so doing, has already reduced tariffs to some extent. Finally, it is important that auctions are competitive and collusion among bidders can be prevented. In this regard, Lengwiler (1999) recommends the ‘variable supply’ auction format which resists collusion. This anti-collusive mechanism ensures competitive auctions in the event of high buyer’s concentration and imperfect competition.

Suggested Citation

  • Joerin, Robert, 2009. "Improving Market Access: The Role of Auctions in Converting Tariff-Rate Quotas into Single Tariffs," 2009 Conference, August 16-22, 2009, Beijing, China 51448, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:iaae09:51448

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daniel Heller & Yvan Lengwiler, 2001. "Should the Treasury Price Discriminate?. A Procedure for Computing Hypothetical Bid Functions," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 157(3), pages 413-413, September.
    2. Yvan Lengwiler, 1999. "The multiple unit auction with variable supply," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 14(2), pages 373-392.
    3. Robert Jörin & Yvan Lengwiler, 2004. "Learning from Financial Markets: Auctioning Tariff-Rate Quotas in Agricultural Trade," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 140(IV), pages 521-541, December.
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    More about this item


    WTO; Market Access; Imperfect Competition; Auctions; International Relations/Trade; Political Economy; Q17; F13; D44;

    JEL classification:

    • Q17 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agriculture in International Trade
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions


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