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On the Equivalence of Tariffs and Quotas for Customs Unions




While quotas can be expressed in tariff-equivalent terms and have identical economic effects under some conditions, they do not share the same welfare implications with tariffs in the presence of a piecemeal reform (second-best). In this paper we show that this non-welfare equivalence persists in perfect competition when countries undergo regional integration. A Pareto improving customs union is nevertheless viable in both protection regimes, but it requires different trade policy adjustments. When we extend the analysis beyond the competitive framework and consider shocks to the economy or imperfect markets, this general desirability of unions is unfortunately lost. But we show that, interestingly, the equivalence between tariff and quota regimes can still arise under particular circumstances, and only quotas provide countries with full insurance from price fluctuations.

Suggested Citation

  • Hansen, Jørgen Drud & Sala, Davide, 2013. "On the Equivalence of Tariffs and Quotas for Customs Unions," Discussion Papers of Business and Economics 11/2013, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Business and Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:sdueko:2013_011

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert W. Staiger & Kyle Bagwell, 1999. "An Economic Theory of GATT," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 215-248, March.
    2. Kemp, Murray C. & Wan, Henry Jr., 1976. "An elementary proposition concerning the formation of customs unions," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 95-97, February.
    3. Falvey, Rodney E., 1988. "Tariffs, quotas and piecemeal policy reform," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1-2), pages 177-183, August.
    4. Panagariya, Arvind & Krishna, Pravin, 2002. "On necessarily welfare-enhancing free trade areas," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 353-367, August.
    5. Corden, W. Max & Falvey, Rodney E., 1985. "Quotas and the second best," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 67-70.
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    More about this item


    Equivalence; tariffs and quotas; customs union;

    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration

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