Preferentialism and the conditionality of trade agreements. An application of the gravity model


Modern economic growth is driven by international trade, and the preferential trade agreement constitutes the primary fit-for-purpose mechanism of choice for establishing, facilitating, and governing its flows. However, too little attention has been afforded to the differences in content and conditionality associated with different trade agreements. This has led to an under-considered mischaracterisation of the design-flow relationship. Similarly, while the relationship between trade facilitation and trade is clear, the way trade facilitation affects other areas of economic activity, with respect to preferential trade agreements, has received considerably less attention. Particularly, in light of an increasingly globalised and interdependent trading system, the interplay between trade facilitation and foreign direct investment is of particular importance. Accordingly, this thesis explores the bilateral trade and investment effects of specific conditionality sets, as established within Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs). Chapter one utilises recent content condition-indexes for depth, flexibility, and constraints on flexibility, established by Dür et al. (2014) and Baccini et al. (2015), within a gravity framework to estimate the average treatment effect of trade agreement characteristics across bilateral trade relationships in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from 1948-2015. This chapter finds that the composition of a given ASEAN trade agreement’s characteristic set has significantly determined the concomitant bilateral trade flows. Conditions determining the classification of a trade agreements depth are positively associated with an increase to bilateral trade; hereby representing the furthered removal of trade barriers and frictions as facilitated by deeper trade agreements. Flexibility conditions, and constraint on flexibility conditions, are also identified as significant determiners for a given trade agreement’s treatment effect of subsequent bilateral trade flows. Given the political nature of their inclusion (i.e., the appropriate address to short term domestic discontent) this influence is negative as regards trade flows. These results highlight the longer implementation and time frame requirements for trade impediments to be removed in a market with higher domestic uncertainty. Chapter two explores the incorporation of non-trade issue (NTI) conditions in PTAs. Such conditions are increasing both at the intensive and extensive margins. There is a concern from developing nations that this growth of NTI inclusions serves as a way for high-income (HI) nations to dictate the trade agenda, such that developing nations are subject to ‘principled protectionism’. There is evidence that NTI provisions are partly driven by protectionist motives but the effect on trade flows remains largely undiscussed. Utilising the Gravity Model for trade, I test Lechner’s (2016) comprehensive NTI dataset for 202 bilateral country pairs across a 32-year timeframe and find that, on average, NTIs are associated with an increase to bilateral trade. Primarily this boost can be associated with the market access that a PTA utilising NTIs facilitates. In addition, these results are aligned theoretically with the discussions on market harmonisation, shared values, and the erosion of artificial production advantages. Instead of inhibiting trade through burdensome cost, NTIs are acting to support a more stable production and trading environment, motivated by enhanced market access. Employing a novel classification to capture the power supremacy associated with shaping NTIs, this chapter highlights that the positive impact of NTIs is largely driven by the relationship between HI nations and middle-to-low-income (MTLI) counterparts. Chapter Three employs the gravity model, theoretically augmented for foreign direct investment (FDI), to estimate the effects of trade facilitation conditions utilising indexes established by Neufeld (2014) and the bilateral FDI data curated by UNCTAD (2014). The resultant dataset covers 104 countries, covering a period of 12 years (2001–2012), containing 23,640 observations. The results highlight the bilateral-FDI enhancing effects of trade facilitation conditions in the ASEAN context, aligning itself with the theoretical branch of FDI-PTA literature that has outlined how the ratification of a trade agreement results in increased and positive economic prospect between partners (Medvedev, 2012) resulting from the interrelation between trade and investment as set within an improving regulatory environment. The results align with the expectation that an enhanced trade facilitation landscape (one in which such formalities, procedures, information, and expectations around trade facilitation are conditioned for) is expected to incentivise and attract FDI

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