Measurement of Non-Tariff Barriers

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Deardorff, A. V. and R. M. Stern (1997), “Measurement of Non-Tariff Barriers”, OECD Economics Department Working Papers, No. 179, OECD Publishing.

OECD Economics Department Working Papers No. 179

Measurement of Non-Tariff Barriers
Alan V. Deardorff, Robert M. Stern

General Distribution



by Alan V. Deardorff and Robert M. Stern University of Michigan

ORGANISATION FOR ECONOMIC CO-OPERATION AND DEVELOPMENT Paris 54867 Document complet disponible sur OLIS dans son format d'origine Complete document available on OLIS in its original format


For governments, the advantage of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to trade is that their effects are more certain than for tariffs. Now that tariff barriers have been substantially reduced, there has been increasing interest in the ways that non-tariff barriers (NTBs) may distort and restrict international trade. This working paper assesses currently available methods for quantifying NTBs. Calculation of the tariff equivalent of a given NTB for a given economic indicator is complex, and requires a great deal of information. Measures that are equivalent for one indicator will not be so for others, and there is no substitute for NTB-specific expertise.



L’avantage, pour les gouvernements, des barrières non tarifaires au commerce (BNT), est que leurs effets sont plus certains que ceux des droits de douane. Les manières dont les BNT peuvent entraîner un effet de distorsion et de restriction du commerce international suscitent un intérêt croissant depuis la réduction substantielle des barrières tarifaires. Ce document de travail analyse les méthodes actuellement disponibles qui permettent d’évaluer quantitativement les BNT. Le calcul du droit de douane équivalent à une BNT donnée, pour un indicateur économique donné, est complexe et nécessite un grand nombre d’information. Des mesures équivalentes pour un indicateur ne le seront pas pour d’autres, et rien ne peut remplacer les connaissances techniques d’un type spécifique de BNT.

Copyright OECD 1997 Application for permission to reproduce or translate all, or part of this material, should be made to: Head of Publications Service, OECD, 2 rue André-Pascal, 75775 Paris Cedex 16, France.




Because tariffs on imports of manufactures have been reduced to relatively low levels in the major industrialized countries especially as the result of the periodic rounds of multilateral trade negotiations, there has been increasing interest in the extent to which existing non-tariff barriers (NTBs) may distort and restrict international trade. In order to address the issues involving the use and impacts of NTBs, it is self-evident that accurate and reliable measures are needed. In this study, we will assess currently available methods for quantifying NTBs and make recommendations as to those methods that can be most effectively employed. We will focus both on the conceptual issues arising in the measurement of the different types of NTBs and on the applied research that has been carried out in studies prepared by country members of the OECD Pilot Group and others seeking to quantify NTBs. In considering NTBs, it is interesting to ask why governments may prefer them over tariffs. While there may not be a single answer to this, Deardorff (1987) suggests some possible explanations that include: institutional constraints such as are built into the GATT/WTO rules and into national constitutions that limit the use of tariffs; the roles of firms and workers in influencing the choice of policies; considerations of reaction to or retaliation against the policies of trading partners; and uncertainty about the ways in which different policies may perform....
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