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Enforcement, Private Political Pressure and the GATT/WTO Escape Clause

  • Kyle Bagwell
  • Robert W. Staiger

We consider the design and implementation of international trade agreements when: (i) negotiations are undertaken and commitments made in the presence of uncertainty about future political pressures; (ii) governments possess private information about political pressures at the time that the agreement is actually implemented; and (iii) negotiated commitments can be implemented only if they are self-enforcing. We thus consider the design of self-enforcing trade agreements among governments that acquire private information over time. In this context, we provide equilibrium interpretations of GATT/WTO negotiations regarding upper bounds on applied tariffs and GATT/WTO escape clauses. We find that governments achieve greater welfare when they negotiate the optimal upper bound on tariffs rather than precise tariff levels; furthermore, when governments negotiate the optimal upper bound on tariffs, the observed applied tariffs often fall strictly below the bound. Our analysis also provides a novel interpretation of a feature of the WTO Safeguard Agreement, under which escape clause actions cannot be re-imposed in the same industry for a time period equal to the duration of the most recent escape clause action. We find that a dynamic usage constraint of this kind can raise the expected welfare of negotiating governments.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10987.

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Date of creation: Dec 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Bagwell, Kyle and Robert Staiger. “Enforcement, Private Political Pressure and the GATT/WTO Escape Clause.” The Journal of Legal Studies 34, 2 (June 2005): 471-513.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10987
Note: ITI
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  1. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1989. "A Theory of Managed Trade," Discussion Papers 801, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  2. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1995. "Protection and the Business Cycle," NBER Working Papers 5168, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Maggi, G & Rodriguez-Clare, A, 1996. "The Value of Trade Agreements in the Presence of Political Pressures," Papers 180, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  4. Feenstra, Robert C & Lewis, Tracy R, 1991. "Negotiated Trade Restrictions with Private Political Pressure," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1287-307, November.
  5. Susan Athey & Kyle Bagwell & Chris Sanchirico, 1998. "Collusion and Price Rigidity," Working papers 98-23, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  6. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1994. "Protection for Sale," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 833-50, September.
  7. Baldwin, Richard, 1987. "Politically realistic objective functions and trade policy PROFs and tariffs," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 287-290.
  8. R. W. Staiger & G. Tabellini, 1999. "Do Gatt Rules Help Governments Make Domestic Commitments?," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(2), pages 109-144, 07.
  9. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1997. "Reciprocity, Non-discrimination and Preferential Agreements in the Multilateral Trading System," NBER Working Papers 5932, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Athey, Susan & Bagwell, Kyle, 2001. "Optimal Collusion with Private Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(3), pages 428-65, Autumn.
  11. Rosendorff, B. Peter & Milner, Helen V., 2001. "The Optimal Design of International Trade Institutions: Uncertainty and Escape," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(04), pages 829-857, September.
  12. Staiger, Robert W & Tabellini, Guido, 1987. "Discretionary Trade Policy and Excessive Protection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 823-37, December.
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