Competing liberalizations: tariffs and trade in the twenty-first century

  • Jean-Christophe Bureau
  • Houssein Guimbard
  • Sébastien JeanEmail author
Original Paper


This paper proposes a unique overview of trade policies since 2001, based on detailed data on tariffs and trade covering 130 countries. It shows that regionalism has delivered limited liberalization, representing only a 0.3 percentage point (p.p.) cut in the worldwide average applied tariff between 2001 and 2013. WTO commitments (1.0 p.p. average cut) and unilateral liberalizations on a most-favored-nation basis (1.3 p.p.) mattered far more. The study also shows that GVC participation was a powerful motivation underlying tariff liberalizations, including those carried out at governments’ own initiative. The paper finally assess that recent trade policy changes more than halved the worldwide welfare gains expected from multilateral tariff-cutting. If all PTA negotiations were concluded, gains would fall to one-third of their 2001 level.


Regional trade agreements Unilateral liberalization Doha development agenda WTO Global value chains 

JEL Classification

F10 F13 F14 



Bureau and Jean benefited from support by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007–2011 under Grant Agreement 290693 Foodsecure. The authors only are responsible for any omissions or deficiencies. Neither the Foodsecure project partner organizations nor any organization of the European Union are accountable for the content of this paper. The authors are indebted to Mondher Mimouni and Xavier Pichot for making tariff protection data available to them, and for helpful discussions. They would like to thank the editor Gerald Willmann and two anonymous referees for their valuable suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Kiel Institute 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AgroParisTech and CEPII, AgroParisTech–INRA UMR Économie publiqueParis Cedex 05France
  2. 2.CEPIIParis Cedex 07France
  3. 3.CEPII and INRAParis Cedex 07France

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