Petros C. Mavroidis, André Sapir, 28 April 2021

China’s ascension to the WTO followed years of negotiations with the incumbent members and was hailed at the time as a victory for the liberal paradigm – part of the ‘end of history’. But today frictions remain. This first in a series of three columns presents the build-up to China joining the multilateral trade agreement, arguing that expectations for its subsequent behaviour were misguided from the off.

Mario Larch, José-Antonio Monteiro, Roberta Piermartini, Yoto Yotov, 20 November 2019

Though economic theory clearly makes the case for WTO trade rules, the empirical evidence of their effect is mixed. This column argues that previous studies may have underestimated the positive role of GATT/WTO membership by not taking into account the non-discriminatory nature of their agreements. Besides market access, the agreements provide greater transparency and predictability that benefit WTO members and non-members alike. Taking these effects into account suggests that, on average, GATT/WTO membership has increased trade between Members by 171% and trade between member and non-member countries by about 88%. 

Eric Bond, Mario Crucini, Tristan Potter, Joel Rodrigue, 27 September 2018

The Trump administration’s recent tariff increases have prompted comparisons to interwar tariff history. This column investigates tariffs during this period, drawing out lessons on their macroeconomic impacts for the US and its trade partners. The recessionary impact of recent tariffs is likely to be smaller and less widespread than those imposed during the interwar period, provided that tariff levels don’t escalate too dramatically through retaliation.

Kyle Bagwell, Robert Staiger, Ali Yurukoglu, 17 May 2018

It is widely accepted that the most-favoured nation rule – a fundamental feature of WTO negotiations – has both advantages and disadvantages. This column considers the empirical outcomes of tariff bargaining under the most-favoured nation rule versus outcomes where this rule is abandoned. It finds that the rule substantially increases welfare at the global level.

Emanuel Ornelas, 14 May 2016

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. 

Chad 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 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 M. 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.


CEPR Policy Research