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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Essays on International Trade Policy

  • Author(s): Tesfayesus, Asrat
  • Advisor(s): Eichengreen, Barry J
  • Rodriguez-Clare, Andres
  • et al.

In the advent of WWII, artificial trade barriers had reached their 20th century peaks. Drastic protectionist measures, aggravated by a worldwide economic depression, led to the significant decline in international trade which in effect further prolonged the economic crises. However, after the end of WWII, among other serious measures taken to promote international economic integration, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was put into effect. Since 1948, the GATT has been effectively used as an instrument to gradually and substantially reduce international trade barriers. These reductions were implemented after multilaterally agreed upon reciprocal concessions were negotiated and signed during the 8 different Rounds that the GATT successfully facilitated. While the primary objective of liberalizing trade is at the essence of these rounds, what negotiators negotiate about in how to share the gains from trade that ensue is less apparent.

Furthermore, the GATT as an instrument has been functioning under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1995. With more countries involved and more varied tradable outputs to negotiate over, the magnitude of the pareto improving gains from trade is increasingly substantial. Since its inception, the WTO has put tremendous effort and resources to continue the process of trade liberalization. However, the Doha Round, the only WTO Round, has yet to show any substantial progress after 12 years since it began in 2001. Why member states fail to reach an agreement has yet to be answered.

In this dissertation, I shed some light on both questions. First, using a select number of developing countries I provide an empirical support to the terms of trade theory; which argues that negotiators negotiate and enter into trade agreement in order to escape from a terms of trade prisoner's dilemma. Negotiators agree to reciprocally internalize externalities they impose on each other in order to create a more efficient international trade environment.

Secondly, I argue that in light of the participation of a larger number of asymmetrically informed member states dealing with a much greater scope of issues that have to all be settled at once, the delay in the Doha Round completion can be explained by negotiating parties engaging in a war of attrition. A negotiator who does not know its trading partners' cost of waiting and valuation of outcome is more likely to attempt to wait it out until all trading partners concede. Consequently, the group as a whole is left with an inefficient amount of delay that could potentially be alleviated by an imposition of a strict deadline by which time an agreement has to be reached. Finally, I provide some empirical evidence to show how the war of attrition story is aggravated by the sudden proliferation in the use of Regional Trade Agreements (RTA) since the early 1990s.

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