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Abstract

Most countries tax their imports. At the global level, those taxes (or customs duties or tariffs) are ruled by the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements. These tariffs are fixed according to the most favoured nation (MFN) clause which states that any commercial advantage granted by a country to another country must automatically be extended to all. However, there are many exceptions to this clause. Many countries or regions of the world sign preferential commercial agreements where they unilaterally or bilaterally commit themselves to reducing their tariffs to below the MFN level. This is the case of the European Union which offers unilateral trade preferences to developing countries within the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) to promote trade from those countries. Since their implementation, a debate has been ongoing about the efficacy of these preferences because of administrative obstacles or restrictive rules of attribution which limit their impact. However, the EU states that the new GSP, in force since 1 January 2006, is both simpler and more generous than the previous ones. In this study which examines whether these claims are justified and confirmed by facts, we concentrate on agrifood trade as most of the changes concern tariffs on this type of products. Whereas the review by the European Union of its scheme of preferences has improved access to its agrifood markets for some of the developing countries, their impact remains limited.

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