CEPII, Recherche et Expertise sur l'economie mondiale
Agricultural Trade Liberalization in the 21st Century: Has it Done the Business?

Jean-Christophe Bureau
Houssein Guimbard
Sébastien Jean

 Highlights :
  • While still relatively high (16.5%, compared to 3.6% for all products), tariffs applied in agricultural and food products have been cut by 40% between 2001 and 2013.
  • Own-initiative liberalization was the dominant driver of agricultural tariff cuts between 2001 and 2007, while RTAs played a larger role afterwards.
  • Deepening regionalism would only have a limited impact. In contrast, a “trade war” might result in world agricultural trade falling by almost 30%, with output falling by 10% or more in some regions.

 Abstract :
Based on a novel, detailed, time-consistent tariff database to take stock of developments regarding import protection in the agricultural sector since 2001, we propose a statistical decomposition of the changes in the various types of tariffs. The results show that the multilateral system has played a limited role in trade liberalization over the period. Many countries have continued to apply much lower tariffs on agricultural products than their WTO ceilings. Moreover, there has been substantial unilateral dismantling of tariffs over the period, so that much of the liberalization took place outside WTO and regional agreements. The number of regional trade agreements has surged, but their impact on applied agricultural tariffs has been limited. Finally, we investigate the tariffs, trade and production implications for food and agricultural products of two extreme scenarios in the future development of trade negotiations: an ambitious surge of regional agreements and a trade war within the WTO context.

 Keywords : Tariffs | Regional Trade Agreements | Agricultural Trade Liberalization | WTO

 JEL : F10, F13, F14
CEPII Working Paper
N°2017-11, June 2017

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 Domaines d'expertise

Commerce & Mondialisation