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Trade Liberalization and Agricultural Terms of Trade in China: Price Scissors Revisited


  • Carter, Colin A.
  • Zhu, Jing


With China’s accession to the WTO, concerns have arisen over the possible negative welfare impacts on domestic agricultural producers. The broad concern is that China’s domestic agricultural prices will be pushed down even further, leading to a greater widening of the gap between rural and urban incomes. It is widely believed that declining price ratio of agricultural to industrial products, the so-called “price scissors”, is one of the major reasons for increasing rural-urban income differences over the past decades. Therefore, improving the terms of trade in favor of agricultural products is a broad policy goal in China. But is this possible with the country joining the WTO? While there is a general perception that the price scissors have negatively affected China’s agriculture and that trade liberalization will worsen the situation, empirical work on price scissors in China, and the relationship to openness, is scarce. In this paper, we use data from 1978-2005 to estimate the impact of China’s trade openness on the relative price of domestic agricultural to industrial products. We find that the domestic agricultural-industrial terms of trade have not exhibited a declining trend, and that trade openness in fact exerts positive impacts on the terms of trade in favor of agricultural products. This finding implies that trade openness improves the economic welfare of China’s agricultural producers.

Suggested Citation

  • Carter, Colin A. & Zhu, Jing, 2009. "Trade Liberalization and Agricultural Terms of Trade in China: Price Scissors Revisited," 2009 Conference, August 16-22, 2009, Beijing, China 51636, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:iaae09:51636

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anderson, Kym & Martin, William J. & Valenzuela, Ernesto, 2007. "Long Run Implications of WTO Accession for Agriculture in China," China's Agricultural Trade: Issues and Prospects Symposium, July 2007, Beijing, China 55025, International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium.
    2. Dennis Tao Yang & Hao Zhou, 1999. "Rural-urban disparity and sectoral labour allocation in China," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, pages 105-133.
    3. Ricardo A. López, 2005. "Trade and Growth: Reconciling the Macroeconomic and Microeconomic Evidence," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(4), pages 623-648, September.
    4. Raaj Kumar Sah & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1983. "The Economics of Price Scissors," NBER Working Papers 1156, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item


    Trade openness; China’s price scissors; Rural-urban income gap; Agricultural and Food Policy; International Relations/Trade; Q11; Q17;

    JEL classification:

    • Q11 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Aggregate Supply and Demand Analysis; Prices
    • Q17 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agriculture in International Trade


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