International Standards and Trade: What does the research say?

Lead author: Ben Shepherd       Year: 2020       Methodology: Literature review

ISO R&I Team Summary

The relationship between standards and trade is a topic of great interest in the standardization community. In this synthesis review, a selection of emblematic studies draws together findings on the impacts of standards on trade across multiple contexts. With this, we can draw some conclusions about the relationship between standards and trade, in particular the value of international standards, as well as some questions for further research.


Publication Abstract

This paper is a selective overview of the literature on standards and trade. It focuses on peer-reviewed econometric strudies and concludes that the effect of standards on trade can be both trade promoting and a barrier, with the trade effects of standards varying greatly across countries, sectors and even firms. Trade promotion can occur due to reduction of information costs and asymmetries, however trade can be restricted when firms cannot bear the costs of production redesign and conformity assessment to meet importing-market standards. Nevertheless, where importing-market standards are de facto harmonized with international standards, such as ISO or IEC, the negative effects can be substantially lessened, or even reversed. Initial negative effects may also lessen over time as firms adapt, eventually leading to standards becoming the catalyst for higher productivity and quality.


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  • Publication type:

    • Institutional publication
  • Other authors:

    • Ben Shepherd