Lessons in trade policy reform
Authors: Thomas, Vinod; Martin, Kazi; Nash, John
Publication date: March 1990
Trade reform programs have two main objectives. The first is to help raise economic growth and employment generation by improving resource allocation and economywide efficiency. The second is to help improve the balance of payments by strengthening the competitiveness of the external sector and expanding exports and efficient import substitutes. This paper evaluates developing country experience with trade policy reforms and makes recommendations for improving the design and implementaion of those reforms. It assesses the extent and effectiveness of the reforms under adjustment programs in the 1980s, highlighting practical problems and constraints, both economic and politcal. Broadly speaking, it considers three issues: (1) the potential conflicts between trade policy reforms and macroeconomic stabilization efforts; (2) the supply response to trade policy reforms, in the context of export prospects and domestic and external constraints; and (3) the sequencing, timing and duration of import reforms, their relation to internal reforms, and the associated transitional costs. The paper finds that trade policy reform, when implemented well, has contributed to improved economic performance in developing countries. The paper also finds that well-designed trade policy reforms do not conflict with other priorites except in special cases; usually they enhance growth.