Technical measures to trade in Central America: incidence, price effects, and consumer welfare

Produced by: 
The World Bank
Available from: 
May 2014
Paper author(s): 
Sinead Kelleher
Jose-Daniel Reyes
Globalization - Trade

Despite the widespread tariff reductions sparked by the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, borders in the region remain thick, with many hurdles standing in the way of regional trade. Although anecdotal evidence suggests that nontariff measures raise trade costs and inhibit trade in the region, little is known about the magnitude of these economic effects. This paper uses a newly collected data set to quantify the incidence of sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade in the region and benchmarks it with other parts of the world. The results indicate that the Central American region has the lowest prevalence of technical nontariff measures in the world. However, there is significant heterogeneity of trade-related regulations in Central America; for instance, 48 percent of Salvadoran imports are subject to at least one nontariff measure, compared with just 16 percent of Honduran imports. The paper estimates the impact of these technical measures on border prices and finds that the price impact of sanitary and phytosanitary measures is equivalent to an ad-valorem tariff of 11.6 percent. This price-rising effect is further investigated by looking in detail at the impact of sanitary and phytosanitary measures on the prices of beef, chicken meat, bread, anddairy products in Guatemala. The impact is estimated to be equivalent to an ad-valorem tariff of 68.4 percent, 51.4 percent, 22.0 percent, and 5.0 percent, respectively. The paper shows that efforts to streamline key sanitary and phytosanitary measures affecting these products by, for example, reducing the cost and time required to obtain sanitary registries, would likely reduce the Guatemalan urban extreme poverty rate from 5.07 percent to 4.91 percent.


Research section: 
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