Market Access Rivalry and Eco-labeling Standards: Are Eco-labels Non-tariff Barriers in Disguise?
Basu, Arnab K.; Chau, Nancy H.
Despite the merits of eco-labeling as a consumer information and market-based environmental policy alternative, the promise that green consumerism holds in encouraging environmentally conscious production decisions also raises concerns over whether eco-labeling deters the market access of developing countries in high income countries, and effectively serves the role of a non-tariff barrier to trade. In this paper, we disentangle the role of eco-labeling in world trade, and show that (i) imperfectly informed consumption decision making in the absence of labeling has a pro-trade bias; (ii) eco-labeling can guide green consumption and production decisions to reach the efficiency frontier, provided that (iii) the choice of eco-labeling standards in the two countries are not subject to coordination failure. Taking labeling standards as endogenously determined by market share rivalry between the two countries, we show that strategic use of eco-labeling gives rise to opposing incentives, and results in a tariff-like outcome that further reduces the volume of trade. Specifically, net importers deviate from the efficiency frontier by choosing labeling standards that are too high, while net exporters choose labeling standards that are too low.
WP 2001-15 August 2001JEL Classification Codes: F13; L15; Q28
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University