Faster economic growth and expansion of exports in Central America in the 21st century will depend on many factors. These include efficient and modern standards systems and an end to technical barriers to trade. Regional efforts can be an efficient way to modernize standards systems.
Abstract: Standards and technical regulations exist to protect consumer safety or to achieve other goals, such as ensuring the interoperability of telecommunications systems, for example. Standards and technical regulations can, however, raise substantially both start-up and production costs for firms. Maskus, Otsuki, and Wilson develop econometric models to provide the first estimates of the incremental production costs for firms in developing nations in conforming to standards imposed by major importing countries. They use firm-level data generated from 16 developing countries in the World Bank Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Survey Database. Their findings indicate that standards do increase short-run production costs by requiring additional inputs of labor and capital. A 1 percent increase in investment to meet compliance costs in importing countries raises variable production costs by between 0.06 and 0.13 percent, a statistically significant increase. The authors also find that the fixed costs of compliance are nontrivial-approximately.
"Improved competitiveness is at the top of the agenda for Mexico as it moves to leverage economic progress made over the past decade. The authors evaluate the impact of changes in trade facilitation measures on trade for main industrial sectors in Mexico. They use four indicators of trade facilitation: port efficiency, customs environment, regulatory environment, and e-commerce use by business (as a proxy for service sector infrastructure). The authors use gravity model results to consider how much trade among countries might be increased under various scenarios of improved trade facilitation. They follow a simulation strategy that uses a formula to design a unique program of reform for each country in the sample, and apply it to the case of Mexico. The formula brings the below-average countries in the group half-way to the average for the entire set of countries. After simulating these improvements in trade facilitation in all four areas, the authors find that the total increase in trade flow in manufacturing goods is estimated to be $348.2 billion (about 7.4 percent of total world trade). The analysis indicates that Mexico has a large scope for trade promotion from trade facilitation reform: overall increments from domestic reforms are expected to be on the order of $31.8 billion, equivalent to 22.4 percent of total Mexican manufacturing exports for 2000-03. On the imports side, these figures are $17.1 billion and 11.2 percent, respectively. In total exports as well as in textiles, increases in exports result from improvements in port efficiency and the regulatory environment (that is, the perception of corruption). In turn, exports of transport equipment are expected to get a greater increment from improvements in port efficiency, whereas exports of food and machinery seem to be more related to improvements in the regulatory environment. On the imports side, Mexican improvements in port efficiency appear to be the most important factor, although for imports of transport equipment improvements in service sector infrastructure are also of relative importance. "--World Bank web site.
The authors test the hypothesis that product standards harmonized to de facto international standards are less trade restrictive than ones that are not. To do this, the authors construct a new database of European Union (EU) product standards. The authors identify standards that are aligned with ISO standards (as a proxy for de facto international norms). The authors use a sample-selection gravity model to examine the impact of EU standards on African textiles and clothing exports, a sector of particular development interest. The authors find robust evidence that non-harmonized standards reduce African exports of these products. EU standards which are harmonized to ISO standards are less trade restricting. Our results suggest that efforts to promote African exports of manufactures may need to be complemented by measures to reduce the cost impacts of product standards, including international harmonization. In addition, efforts to harmonize national standards with international norms, including through the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, promise concrete benefits through trade expansion.