Hidden Trade Costs? Maximum Residue Limits and U.S. Exports of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

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Center for Agricultural Trade

Consecutive rounds of trade negotiations at the multilateral and regional level have resulted in significant reductions to agricultural tariffs. However, agricultural economists and policy makers alike agree that non-tariff measures (NTMs) are more obscure in nature and have the potential to be more trade distorting. Among the list of NTMs, Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures play an influential role in agri-food product trade. In this article we focus on a specific type of SPS measure known as maximum residue limits (MRLs) that features prominently in multilateral and regional trade negotiations. The purpose of this research project is threefold. First, we construct a comprehensive database of country-and-product specific MRLs for global fresh fruit and vegetable trade that varies by pesticide chemical type: herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Second, we develop a new index summarizing the extent of bilateral MRL stringency between importing and exporting countries on pesticide tolerances focusing specific attention on the U.S. and its bilateral trading partners. Third, formal econometric models are developed to quantify and test the degree to which more stringent MRL standards in importing countries as compared to comparable domestic standards that exist in exporting countries restrict fresh fruit and vegetable trade. The results suggest importer MRL standards that are stricter than exporter MRLs can impart significant reductions in bilateral fresh fruit and vegetable trade.

Fruit and vegetable trade, Bilateral trade, Non-tariff measures, Maximum residue limits, Gravity mode, Intensive and extensive margins of trade