Wilhelm Kohler, Gernot Müller, 08 November 2017

The EU’s position in the Brexit negotiations is based on the premise that the four freedoms of the single market – goods, capital, services, and labour – are indivisible. This column argues that this indivisibility claim has no economic foundations, and that negotiating on this premise risks unnecessary harm. Reintroducing trade barriers will inflict damage on both sides of the Channel. The possibility that abandoning indivisibility may cause harm through cherry picking, or through potential further exits, doesn’t justify a hard Brexit scenario.

Caroline Freund, 07 June 2017

In assessing the underlying causes of the US’ significant trade deficits, the Trump administration’s focus appears to be on alleged unfair trade practices of foreign countries. This column argues that international trade policy has a negligible effect on trade balances. The aggregate US trade deficit results from macroeconomic pressures, while bilateral deficits are due to structural factors, supply chains, and how trade is measured. 

Marion Jansen, Valentina Rollo, Olga Solleder, 19 March 2017

Standards and regulations form an inherent part of international trade. This column presents evidence – based on two novel datasets – that suggests that for firms the distinction between voluntary standards and government regulations is blurred, that export revenues of small firms are hit twice as hard by burdensome regulations as those of large firms, and that firms active in larger markets have access to a higher number of voluntary standards.

Chad Bown, 27 June 2014

Temporary trade barriers have become more than an important bellwether for contemporary protectionism; with persistent tariff levels, they are now a primary obstacle to free trade. The World Bank’s newly updated Temporary Trade Barriers Database suggests that the Great Recession-era increases in import protection may be levelling off. Now policymakers begin to face the daunting task of dismantling all of those temporary barriers they imposed during the early phase of the crisis.

Dennis Novy, 11 October 2012

Trade barriers such as transportation costs and tariffs reduce international trade. But when these trade barriers come down, do they increase international trade equally among countries? This column presents evidence from OECD countries that trade costs have a differential impact depending on the trade intensity of the countries involved. When they already trade a lot, country pairs hardly benefit. But bilateral trade grows faster when the initial trade relationship was thin.

Michael Ferrantino, 11 February 2012

As tariffs have declined steadily since the 1940s, government interventions to restrict imports have increasingly taken non-tariff forms. This column argues these add many trade costs along the supply chain and, in a world where production is fragmented across countries, they are associated with development traps. Regional initiatives and a focus on logistics measures can help bring supply chains to new parts of the world.

Cecília Hornok, 09 July 2011

Trade barriers that delay transactions are like sand in the wheels of a global economy in which firms trade frequently and international production is fragmented. This column presents evidence showing how the elimination of border controls and customs procedures within the EU has contributed to faster trade, lower trade costs, and larger cross-country trade.

Nikolaus Wolf, Volker Nitsch, 09 November 2009

The fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago created a number of "natural experiments" that economists have exploited to advance our understanding of fundamental issues. This column reviews the use of German data to examine the surprisingly large impact that international borders have in geographically dampening buying and selling patterns. Its results show that the biggest barriers to trade stem from economic fundamentals rather than technological and political barriers. Infrastructure and tariffs can come done quickly; it takes at least a generation to tear down the wall in our minds.

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