Preferential Rules of Origin and the Multilateral Trading System: Pro-Development Policy Options
With the proliferation of regional trade agreements since the late 1980s and early 1990s, preferential rules of origin have also proliferated. The discussion on these rules has gradually shifted from a purely technical discussion (“how to establish the origin of goods not wholly obtained in one country”, and hence, “how to apply trade preferences in these cases”) to a wider discussion also touching upon the transaction costs caused by having a “spaghetti bowl” of rules, and the actual or presumed neo-protectionist use that is being made of them. In the context of the discussion on possible policy options for developing countries simultaneously involved in (or negotiating) regional and multilateral trade agreements, this article will first give a brief overview of the findings of the recent empirical literature. Some indications are then presented as to what such policy options could look like.