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Trade and SPS Regulations: The Importance of Being Earnest?

By Marie-Agnes Jouanjean and Alexandre Le Vernoy


There is a pending question regarding the impact of food safety standards promulgated by governments or imposed by buyers from the private sector. Their effects on the capacity for developing countries to access developed countries’ markets for high value agricultural and food products is a vivid research theme that up-till-now provided mixed results. While some advocates that food safety standards may hamper exporting abilities, others present evidence that they enable competitiveness and act as a pro-poor growth. This paper contributes to this debate. We offer an analysis on how the intensity of trade flows in fruits and vegetables in Central American countries, Dominican Republic and the U.S. respond to both the level of Sanitary and Phytosanitary regulations and to products reputation on the U.S. market subsequent to import detention/refusal. We emphasize the specific case of non-traditional horticultural products introduced in Central American countries in the 70s and 80s under structural adjustment frameworks. To this end, we implement a gravity model of bilateral trade flows to (1) identify the effect through time of food safety standards on exports from Central America to the US, and (2) measure the degree of adaptation to detention/refusal what we define as resilience of the supply chains. First (and highly preliminary) results show that there is indeed a negative relationship between unit prices and reputation on export markets.SPS – Agricultural Trade – Reputation – Alerts, International Relations/Trade, F13, O13, Q17,

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