Argument: African tariffs and protectionism have been economically harmful

Issue Report: Free trade


  • Marian L. Tupy. “Free Trade Benefits All”. Washington Times, January 3, 2006 – “Under the World Trade Organization’s “special and differential treatment” rule, many sub-Saharan African countries have been permitted to retain significantly higher import tariffs than rich countries. Combined with “preferential treatment” of their goods in rich countries’ markets, sub-Saharan African producers enjoy a substantial advantage over other foreign competitors.
Result? According to the World Bank, Africa’s share of world exports declined from 3? percent in 1970 to less than 2 percent in 2003. About 50 percent of sub-Saharan African exports come from a single country, South Africa. (It is worth noting South African import tariffs are substantially lower than those of other sub-Saharan African countries.)
Sub-Saharan African share of world exports, in other words, has been declining despite (or I would argue “because of”) trade protectionism. Domestic producers, reliant on their captive domestic market to keep them afloat, see no need to make their products better and cheaper.
Shoddy goods and services abound throughout the developing world. And the poor suffer the most. Is that the outcome nongovernmental organizations, such as Oxfam, had in mind when they urged poor countries to retain their tariff barriers?”