The aims of this study are to assess the relationship between tariff barriers and world trade growth from a comparative and historical perspective, and to derive some useful indications for evaluating the effectiveness of the current multilateral trading system for promoting world trade. The novelty of this work is the complex reconstruction of a historical tariffs and trade series for the period 1870–2000, for 23 countries; this constitutes a good proxy for world trade (accounting for over 60 per cent) in this period. The effect of tariff liberalisation on trade growth is analysed empirically using panel data and time series. The results, while confirming the existence of a world level long-term relationship between tariff reductions and trade growth, demonstrate how this substantial and significant relationship pre-World War II gradually diminished in importance and significance after 1950. This result does not conflict with the key role of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization system in trade liberalisation; however, it underlines the importance of a formalised multilateral trading system, not so much for tariff liberalisation, but for building a virtuous process of international coordination of trade policies and ensuring fuller participation in world trade.
Nenci S (2011). Tariff Liberalisation and the Growth of World Trade: A Comparative Historical Analysis of the Multilateral Trading System. WORLD ECONOMY, 34(10), 1809-1835 [10.1111/j.1467-9701.2011.01401.x].