For over half a century, one pillar of the world trading system has been the principle of ‘special and differential treatment’ (SDT) for developing countries. This column explores how SDT has impacted trade policy around the world. Although this strategy aims to help developing countries, in design and practice it seems to be biased against them. While there is no support for SDT as a growth-promoting strategy, there is a clear need for further research that explicitly tackles the empirical challenges that it presents.
Emanuel Ornelas, 14 May 2016
Chad P. Bown, 23 December 2015
With the Doha Round finally out of the way, WTO members must decide how to proceed with unfinished business and new issues. This column argues for re-thinking the WTO approach to tariff cutting based on insights drawn from recent research. The next time around, deals may be more likely to be struck if emerging economies negotiate tariff cuts among themselves, reciprocally – as the original GATT members did in 1947.
Chad P. Bown, Douglas Irwin, 19 December 2015
Accurately establishing the GATT’s starting point is important for assessments of its contributions to the post-war trading system, on which much of contemporary trade policy continues to be based. However, a frequently cited statistic is that average tariffs immediately prior to the first GATT negotiations in Geneva in 1947 were at or above 40%. This column largely debunks the 40% myth and suggests that average tariffs in 1947 were around 22%.
Marc Bacchetta, Cosimo Beverelli, 31 July 2012
The WTO and its predecessor the GATT have been remarkably successful in negotiating down tariffs over the past six decades. But trade is still a long way from free and since the global crisis, it is becoming even less so. This column reviews the facts, economics, and motives behind these new non-tariff barriers and discusses the challenges they pose for the WTO.
Marco Fugazza, Alessandro Nicita, 15 December 2010
The multilateral trading system of the GATT and WTO is rapidly being replaced by a system dominated by preferential trade agreements. This column argues that this new system is complex in nature and provides a novel assessment of the implications for signatory countries and third parties.
Michael Waibel, 16 April 2010
What legal basis is there for retaliating against China’s exchange-rate policy? This column says that IMF rules are likely inadequate to rule against China, while its policy does not constitute a WTO-punishable export subsidy. It argues that exchange-rate conflicts should be handled by a proposed IMF dispute settlement mechanism, not the WTO.
Alan Taylor, Antoni Estevadeordal, 24 August 2008
The link between greater openness to trade and higher growth, once held sacred by economists, has come under contestation in recent years. The authors of DP6942 develop a growth model with a basis for trade in order to uncover the impressive impact trade has had upon growth of GDP, using data from before and after the Uruguay Round.
Douglas Irwin, Petros C. Mavroidis, 29 July 2008
The WTO's Doha Round talks failed. This column draws lessons from a new book on the history of the WTO's predecessor, the GATT, to show that building and maintaining the global trading system has never been easy. The key ingredient is political leadership, which is evidently lacking at this stage.