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Reciprocity, Non-discrimination and Preferential Agreements in the Multilateral Trading System

  • Kyle Bagwell
  • Robert W. Staiger

and non-discrimination, the two principles that are the pillars of the multi- lateral trading system as embodied in GATT and its successor, the WTO. We show that GATT's principle of reciprocity serves to neutralize the world-price effects of a country's trade policy decisions, and hence can deliver efficient trade-policy outcomes for its member governments provided that the externa- lities associated with trade intervention travel through world prices. We then establish that externalities indeed travel in this way if and only if tariffs also conform to the principle of non-discrimination (MFN). In this way, the principles of reciprocity and non-discrimination can work together to deliver efficient outcomes for the multilateral trading system. We also consider within our framework the implications of preferential agreements for the multilateral trading system. The introduction of free trade agreements com- plicates the way in which externalities are transmitted across countries, and in this environment the principle of reciprocity can not longer deliver efficient multilateral outcomes for its member governments. We do find a limited place for customs unions in the multilateral trading system, provided that the member countries of the union have similar political preferences. As these conditions are quite stringent, we offer little support for the hypothesis that the principle of reciprocity can deliver an efficient multi- lateral trade agreement in the presence of preferential agreements. Instead, our results offer support for the view that preferential agreements pose a threat to the existing multilateral system.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5932.

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Date of creation: Feb 1997
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Publication status: published as Bagwell, Kyle and Robert W. Staiger. "Reciprocity, Non-discrimination And The Preferential Agreements In The Multilateral Trading System," European Journal of Political Economy, 2001, v17(2,Jun), 281-325.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5932
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  1. Staiger, Robert W., 1995. "International rules and institutions for trade policy," Handbook of International Economics, in: G. M. Grossman & K. Rogoff (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 29, pages 1495-1551 Elsevier.
  2. Grossman, G.M. & Helpman, E., 1992. "Trade Wars and Trade Talks," Papers 163, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  3. Goldberg, Pinelopi Koujianou, 1995. "Product Differentiation and Oligopoly in International Markets: The Case of the U.S. Automobile Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 891-951, July.
  4. Robert Feenstra, 2004. "Estimating The Effects Of Trade Policy," Working Papers 9510, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  5. Bagwell, Kyle & Staiger, Robert W, 1997. "Multilateral Tariff Cooperation during the Formation of Free Trade Areas," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 38(2), pages 291-319, May.
  6. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1993. "Miltilateral Tariff Cooperation During the Formation of Customs Unions," Discussion Papers 1070, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  7. Grossman, Gene & Helpman, Elhanan, 1993. "Protection for Sale," CEPR Discussion Papers 827, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Baldwin, Richard, 1987. "Politically realistic objective functions and trade policy PROFs and tariffs," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 287-290.
  9. Bond, Eric W. & Syropoulos, Constantinos, 1996. "The size of trading blocs Market power and world welfare effects," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-4), pages 411-437, May.
  10. Bagwell, Kyle & Staiger, Robert W., 1997. "Strategic export subsidies and reciprocal trade agreements: The natural monopoly case," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 491-510, December.
  11. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1996. "Reciprocal Trade Liberalization," NBER Working Papers 5488, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Paul Krugman, 1991. "The move toward free trade zones," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 7-58.
  14. Giovanni Maggi & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 1998. "The Value of Trade Agreements in the Presence of Political Pressures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(3), pages 574-601, June.
  15. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1997. "An Economic Theory of GATT," NBER Working Papers 6049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Bond, E.W. & Syropoulos, C., 1993. "Trading Blocs and the Sustainability of Inte-regional Cooperation," Papers 5-93-3, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  17. Berry, S. & Linsohn, J. & Pakes, A., 1997. "Voluntary Export Restraints on Automobiles: Evaluating a Strategic Trade Policy," Working Papers 393, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  18. Gros, Daniel, 1987. "A note on the optimal tariff, retaliation and the welfare loss from tariff wars in a framework with intra-industry trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3-4), pages 357-367, November.
  19. J. P. Neary (ed.), 1995. "International Trade," Books, Edward Elgar, volume 0, number 575, December.
  20. Giovanni Maggi, 1999. "The Role of Multilateral Institutions in International Trade Cooperation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 190-214, March.
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