Handbook on International Trade Policy
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Handbook on International Trade Policy

Edited by William A. Kerr and James D. Gaisford

The Handbook on International Trade Policy is an insightful and comprehensive reference tool focusing on trade policy issues in the era of globalization. Each specially commissioned chapter deals with important international trade issues, discusses the current literature on the subject, and explores major controversies. The Handbook also directs the interested reader to further sources of information.
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Chapter 31: Administrative Measures: Restraining Bureaucracy from Inhibiting Trade

William A. Kerr


William A. Kerr Introduction The form of non-tariff barriers is only constrained by the ingenuity of the bureaucrats charged with putting them in place. As administrative activities of governments that require a response or change of activity by firms often act as a friction1 on the working of markets or the internal governance activities of firms (Hobbs and Kerr 1999), motivation becomes central to the discussion of administrative measures that constrain international commercial activities. This is because almost any administrative measure can be endowed with a plausible domestic rationale and, hence, it becomes very difficult to identify measures put in place simply for purposes of restricting trade. Policy makers seldom admit that their motivation for putting measures in place is the restriction of trade and, hence, attempts to curtail the trade restricting power of administrative measures must be based on alternative criteria that are inherently less than comprehensive and imperfect substitutes. In some areas of regulation, sufficient international consensus has arisen regarding the potential for abuse of administrative measures that formal agreements have been negotiated that attempt to establish rules for the imposition of trade restricting practices. This is the case for sanitary measures that relate to tradable goods that could threaten human or animal health and phytosanitary measures that relate to transborder movements of plants and plant material that pose health or environmental risks. In these cases, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) applies. It attempts to restrict...

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