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Standards policy and international trade: Multilateralism versus regionalism

Yasuhiro Takarada, Yasushi Kawabata (), Akihiko Yanase () and Hiroshi Kurata

Journal of Public Economic Theory, 2020, vol. 22, issue 5, 1420-1441

Abstract: We develop a simple model of policy coordination on domestic standards and examine whether domestic standards policy can lead to regional and multilateral harmonization of standards under the principle of national treatment. This paper focuses on mandatory product and process standards affecting the characteristics of a final good that control negative consumption externalities (e.g., vehicle emissions control and safety standards, restrictions on the use of pesticides for agricultural goods, and safety standards for electrical products). Only the products that meet a country's national standards are allowed to circulate in that country's market. Raising standards reduces negative externalities caused by consumption of a traded good but increases firms’ costs. We use the core as the solution concept. A standards regime is considered to be in the core if it is not blocked by any coalition within countries. The main finding is that a multilateral agreement on standards that maximizes world welfare is only in the core if externalities are local or slightly transboundary. Otherwise, only a regional agreement on standards is in the core. As extensions, we consider many and asymmetric number of firms, asymmetry in market size, fixed costs for different standards, and a multilateral agreement on different standards.

Date: 2020
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