Modelling the Impact of Environmental Regulations on Bilateral Trade Flows: OECD 1990-96

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 11/00

Date: July 2000


Mark N. Harris
László Kónya
László Mátyás


Since the early seventies an increasing attention has been paid to the impact environmental policy has on foreign trade. One of the most important issues is whether countries with relatively strict environmental regulat ions tend to experience a deterioration of international competitiveness and thus a fall in the exports, and a rise in the imports, of t he pollution-intensive commodities or, on the other hand, benefit from the improvement in environmental quality and are likely to develop new comparative advantages in the environmentally more sensitive industries. So far, most empirical studies have concluded that the proportion of environmental costs to the total production costs is still so marginal that environmental policies have hardly any effect on comparative advantage patterns and thus on foreign trade. One of the few exceptions is Van Beers and Van den Bergh (1997), who found that stricter regulat ions have some negative impact on bilateral trade flows between OECD countries. The aim of this paper is to show that t his outcome is part ly due to model mis-specification. The analysis is based on a triple indexed fixed-effects model and on its variant's. It is found that, as so on as both t he importing and exporting country specific effects are taken into consideration, the relationship between stricter regulations and foreign trade becomes statist ically insignificant. This suggests that environmental costs do not have a real impact, neither negative nor positive, on foreign trade.

Download Paper