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International Relations, PUBLICATIONS

The added value of international trade and impact of trade barriers

Written by Risto Nieminen and Laura Puccio with Marine Charlotte André,

It is recognised that GDP growth and trade are interlinked – consequently, measures which facilitate international trade also have positive effects on the development of GDP.

The added value of international trade and impact of trade barriers - Cost of Non-Europe Report


Consensus exists among economists that free trade, in principle, can deliver many beneficial outcomes. However, concerns about the harmful distributional consequences of international trade and adjustment costs are not unjustified. The gains from trade are not shared equally, and trade can hurt some sectors of the population.

Trade liberalisation generates different results across the 28 EU Member States. In certain cases, even if the global impact is positive, certain countries, regions or industrial sectors may face adjustment (costs). A better understanding of how different Member States or industrial sectors are impacted by new trade agreements is important to promote more efficient and better targeted use of the EU’s globalisation adjustment fund, in cases where adjustment costs are heterogeneous and high.

EU prosperity is dependent on international trade. As long-term EU GDP growth predictions are at a lower level than GDP projections for other parts of the world, the EU’s global market-share will decrease should the EU fail to participate in the faster growth in other parts of the world.

Given the increasing tensions surrounding international trade, pressing policy questions have recently shifted away from the consequences of liberalisation or greater openness, to the impact of increased trade barriers. This is problematic because, while there are several underdeveloped and highly protected countries, there are no rich and highly protected countries – and the path from one group to the other passes through trade liberalisation.

Globalisation has increased the growth of global value chains, contributing to increased interconnectedness in global economies. The increase of global value chains has enabled sharing of know-how, and increased specialisation and better allocation of human and financial resources. Changes in the operational environment, whether legal, financial, or competitive, could considerably modify the operating logic of existing global value chains, triggering global value chain changes. An evaluation of the impact of future planned or proposed legislative changes (trade agreements, tariffs etc.) on current global value chains (GVC) should therefore be included in impact assessments accompanying such proposals.

Although it is difficult to estimate the economic impact of trade restrictions, several studies provide information on the potential monetary impact.

Read this Study on ‘The added value of international trade and impact of trade barriers‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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About EAVA

The European Parliament's European Added Value Unit provides European Added Value Assessments and Cost of Non-Europe Reports which analyze policy areas where common action at EU level is absent but could bring greater efficiency and a public good for European citizens.


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