Lessons from the first two decades of trade policy reviews in the Americas

The Trade Policy Reviews conducted in the Western Hemisphere over 1989-2009 contain a wealth of information that puts in clear evidence the considerable improvements achieved in most American countries during the first two decades of operation of the Trade Policy Review Mechanism.  Those Reviews show that trade liberalization came hand-in-hand with internal reforms, and was generally of an autonomous nature and an intrinsic component of improved economic management.

Trade liberalization slowed down during the second decade under review, with tariffs having come down mostly during the earlier years.  The use of non-tariff barriers also fell over time although at a slow pace in some of the smallest Members, which found it difficult to implement the more complex trade policy instrument applied by larger countries.  Export and other government assistance schemes proliferated throughout the continent but were often characterized by a lack of unity in the criteria used to assign and apply them.  The review period also witnessed enormous changes in the services sectors, where reforms usually proved more complex than in the goods area.  The multilateral and other international trade agreements contributed to the stability of trade policies and the general rejection of protectionism, although backtracking did occur in a number of cases.  Because the commitments made during the Uruguay Round negotiation now fall short of the more liberal trade regimes that came to be over the review period, most Members in the Americas could presently raise trade and investment barriers without violating multilateral rules.  Thus, the pressing need to conclude the Doha Development Agenda in order to lock in the considerable trade policy liberalization achieved during past years, and to strengthen the multilateral trading system.

No: ERSD-2010-15

Author: Raymundo Valdés — World Trade Organization, WTO

Manuscript date: November 2010

Key Words:

Commercial Policy, GATT WTO, Liberalization, Integration, History

JEL classification numbers:

F13, F15, N10


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