Rich Country Tariffs and Subsidies: Let's Do the Numbers

December 13, 2005

Agricultural tariffs and subsidies are at the center of the current "Doha Round" negotiations over international trade rules. But tariffs and subsidies are complex and hard even for experts to measure. This note distills results from the method used in the Center for Global Development's Commitment to Development Index to grade rich countries’ trade barriers against developing country exports. It turns out that the poorest of the developing countries face the highest trade barriers in rich countries. On the rich-country side, New Zealand has the lowest barriers against exports from developing countries, followed by the United States, Canada, and Australia. European Union barriers are about three times as high as those of the United States in agriculture, and twice as high overall. Norway and Switzerland use their freedom from EU constraints to erect even higher barriers, and Japan’s barriers against rice rank it as most protective. Overall, agricultural tariffs—not the subsidies so frequently cited in the media—are the largest barrier to exports from developing countries. Export subsidies in particular are a trivial part of the overall picture.

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