The heterogeneous effects of standards on agricultural trade flows


This article uses a theory-based translog gravity model to investigate the heterogeneous effects of food standards on aggregate agricultural trade. We revisit the ‘standards-as-barriers-to-trade’ debate with a distinctive twist. In contrast to existing works, we show that standards reduce trade but even more so for countries that trade smaller volumes. Our identification strategy exploits the within-country variation in specific trade concerns. We confirm that stricter importer standards are indeed trade-restrictive. However, the estimated trade cost elasticity varies depending on how intensively two countries trade. Specifically, it decreases in magnitude with an increasing import share of the exporter in the importing country’s total imports. The reason is simple but intuitive; bigger trading partners find it more profitable to invest in meeting the costs of importer-specific standards. This work is novel in showing that the standards–trade debate misses out on an important heterogeneity driven by existing import shares. Liberalising non-tariff measures will favour smaller trading partners more than well-established ones.

In Journal of Agricultural Economics
Dela-Dem Doe Fiankor
Dela-Dem Doe Fiankor
Research Associate