Trade agreements and trade measures are policy instruments thought to favour trade by providing a degree of harmonisation among members. We analyse how the agri-food trade and the incidence of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPSs) have evolved within countries sharing agreements. We examine, through a regression discontinuity design, whether the approval of agreements affects the evolution of trade and SPSs over time, and quantify the trade effects of SPSs. We also provide differences before and after the introduction of agreements, and among the most regulated agri-food products. Findings show that trade agreements tend to favour the increase of trade and the reduction of policy measures between members. However, regulation inequalities exist across trade agreements covering different geo-economic areas: after the approval of agreements, the existence and the importance of SPSs become relevant among developing countries, whereas the pervasiveness of SPSs becomes less stringent between developed and developing countries. Our analyses also prove that trade agreements and trade measures are trade-enhancing only at aggregate level: product-specific analyses show that cereal is the only sector that benefits from the joint influence of trade agreements and SPSs. The harmonisation of SPSs within agreements may be determinant in avoiding distortions in favour of members.
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