Trade policy uncertainty as barrier to trade

This paper studies the effects of trade policy uncertainty on the extensive and the intensive margins of trade for a sample of 149 exporters at the HS6 digit level. We measure trade policy uncertainty as the gap between binding tariff commitments under trade agreements (multilateral and regional agreements) and applied tariffs- what is also known as tariffs’ water.

Our results show that trade policy uncertainty is an important barrier to export. On average the elimination of water increases the probability of exporting by 12 percent. A one percent decrease of water also increases export volumes by one percent. We also find that the negative impact of trade policy uncertainty is higher for countries with low quality of institutions and in the presence of global value chains. Finally, our findings show that on average trade policy uncertainty is equivalent to a level of tariffs between 1.7 and 8.7 percentage points.


No: ERSD-2015-05

Authors: Alberto Osnago, Roberta Piermartini and Nadia Rocha

Manuscript date: May 2015

Key Words:

Binding overhang, tariffs, policy space, non-tariff barriers, World Trade Organization

JEL classification numbers:

F10, F13, F14

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This is a working paper, and hence it represents research in progress. The opinions expressed in this paper are those of its authors. They are not intended to represent the positions or opinions of the WTO or its members and are without prejudice to members’ rights and obligations under the WTO. Any errors are attributable to the authors.

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