Eliminating Excessive Tariffs on Exports of Least Developed Countries
Posted: 31 Jul 2008
Date Written: March 2002
Although average OECD tariffs on imports from the least developed countries are very low; tariffs above 15 percent (peaks) have a disproportional effect on their exports. Products subject to tariff peaks tend to be heavily concentrated in agriculture and food products and labor-intensive sectors, such as apparel and footwear. Although the least developed countries benefit from preferential access, preferences tend to be smallest for tariff peak products. A major exception is the European Union, so that the recent European initiative to grant full duty-free and quota-free access for the least developed countries (the so-called Everything But Arms initiative) will result in only a small increase in their exports of tariff peak items (less than 1 percent of total exports). However, as preferences are less significant in other major OECD countries, a more general emulation of the European Union initiative would increase the least developed countries' total exports of peak products by US $2.5 billion (11 percent of total exports). Although almost half of this increase is at the expense of other developing country exports, this represents less than 0.05 percent of their total exports. This trade diversion can be avoided by reducing tariff peaks to a uniform 5 percent applied on a nondiscriminatory basis. However, such a reform would imply no gains for the least developed countries, suggesting that the globally welfare-superior policy of nondiscriminatory elimination of tariff peaks should be complemented by greater direct assistance to poor countries.
Keywords: Trade Policy, tariffs, tariff peaks, exports, least developed countries
JEL Classification: F13, F14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation