Liberalizing Trade, and its Impact on Poverty and Inequality in Nicaragua
The Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations stalled in 2008 owing in no small degree to a lack of agreement on the terms of substantially reducing trade-distorting support for agricultural products and to what extent this would be beneficial to developing countries. Nicaragua presents an interesting case in point, being one of the poorest economies in Latin America with still a relatively large agricultural sector and high degrees of rural poverty. In 2005, the country signed a free trade agreement with the United States. A previous study showed that most welfare gains of this agreement for Nicaragua would potentially come from the increased market access for textiles and clothing exported to the United States. Under the agreement, the country stands to benefit much less from reducing tariffs on agricultural imports or agro-industrial export quotas. Since the United States is Nicaragua’s main trading partner, this raises the question whether further trade liberalization with all trading partners, including full elimination of all taxes and tariffs on agricultural production and trade, would be any more beneficial. Using a CGE model and a microsimulation methodology, this study shows that small welfare gains in terms of increased output and poverty reduction may be expected for Nicaragua under various scenarios of trade opening. At best, however, there would be a static gain in aggregate output of 1.5 percent as compared with the baseline scenario. This outcome would materialize only in a scenario of worldwide liberalization of trade in agricultural and non-agricultural products as this would yield relatively strong positive terms-of-trade effects for Nicaragua. Employment and real wage growth would contribute to poverty reduction, but only very modestly in a country with still widespread poverty. Most of these small gains would accrue to the rural poor. The analysis further shows that these gains tend to be smaller when using trade elasticity estimates based on country-specific data as compared with the much higher elasticities typically assumed by global trade models, including the Global Linkage model.
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