Are Trade Preferences a Panacea?: The African Growth and Opportunity Act and African Exports
73 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2019 Last revised: 28 Feb 2019
Date Written: February 19, 2019
Does "infant industry" preferential access durably boost export performance? This paper exploits significant trade policy changes in the United States around the turn of the 21st century to address this question. The expansion of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) products for less developed countries in 1997 and the implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2001 is used to assess whether preferential access boosts exports of eligible products in general and apparel specifically. The phase-out of the Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA) in 2005 is used to assess whether any expansion in apparel exports survived the erosion of preferences. To find a causal impact of these changes on exports to the United States from a given beneficiary country, the analysis uses a triple-differences regression and 26 years of newly constructed trade and tariff data at the country-product-year level (1992-2017). The analysis finds that the AGOA boosted African apparel exports, and the expansion of the GSPincreased African exports of other eligible products. While the marginal impacts on African apparel exports grew sharply in the first years of AGOA, the impacts leveled off after 2005, when the end of the MFA quotas unleashed competition from Asian countries. The illusion of sustained African apparel exports is created by three late-bloomers in East Africa offsetting the boom-bust pattern in Southern Africa and the never-significant response in Central and Western Africa. Firm-level customs data for selected countries reveal that even in East Africa, the recent export growth was driven by new entrants rather than by incumbent firms whose competitiveness might have been nurtured by the big preference margins during the early AGOA period. Understanding the heterogeneous response to trade preferences remains a challenge. However, preliminary evidence suggests that preferential access per se was not sufficient but needed to be complemented by specific domestic reforms: tariff liberalization, reduced regulatory burden, enhanced connectivity, and competitive exchange rates.
Keywords: International Trade and Trade Rules, Construction Industry, Common Carriers Industry, Food & Beverage Industry, Plastics & Rubber Industry, Business Cycles and Stabilization Policies, General Manufacturing, Pulp & Paper Industry, Textiles, Apparel & Leather Industry, Commodity Risk Management, Mining & Extractive Industry (Non-Energy)
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