What's the Point of Reciprocal Trade Negotiations? Exports, Imports, and Gains from Trade
This paper explains why trade-policy makers may prefer reciprocal trade negotiations (RTN) to unilateral tariff reductions (UTR) for economic reasons. It answers puzzles like "Why WTO reciprocity?" and strengthens the unncecessarily weak case made for the WTO by those who downplay or dismiss benefits from foreign tariff reductions (FTR). RTN is superior to UTR because it provides economic benefits that UTR cannot -- namely, FTR benefits which are clearer than potentially important UTR benefits: Whereas each policy offers efficiency gains, any terms-of-trade effect of UTR generally detracts from these gains, while any terms-of-trade effect of FTR is typically beneficial (especially for a small price-taking country) with this benefit augmenting FTR's efficiency gains. Moreover, benefits from reductions in foreign barriers may come from several sources; they are not solely the result of terms-of-trade improvement -- or economies of scale (the two benefits already noted in the literature, though often dismissed). E.g. with foreign NTB elimination, possible home benefits are shown even with rising costs and terms-of-trade deterioration. RTN is also superior to UTR because, by eliminating protection in either NTB or tariff form, RTN provides an escape from not only a terms-of-trade prisoners' dilemma, but many other previously unrecognized prisoners' dilemmas, including one in international rent transfers, and several others with no economies-of-scale or terms-of-trade motivation. If reciprocity is an option, but only in a narrower CU or FTA form, such reciprocity may still be superior to UTR, or it may be inferior; theory cannot unambiguously rank these.
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