Do Gatt Rules Help Governments Make Domestic Commitments?


R. W. Staiger Department of Economics, The University of Wisconsin, 1180 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


We investigate empirically whether GATT rules may have helped the US government make trade policy commitments to its private sector. We study choices under two distinct environments. One environment is the determination of sectoral exclusions in the Tokyo Round of GATT negotiations. The other is the determination of tariff responses under GATT’s escape clause. In each environment the US government was faced with a similar decision, but only in the former environment did GATT rules serve as a potential commitment device. Comparing decisions made across these two environments, we find evidence that GATT rules did help the US government make domestic trade policy commitments that it could not have made in the absence of these rules.