Learning from financial markets: Auctioning tariff-rate quotas in agricultural trade

Robert Joerin and Yvan Lengwiler (2004). Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics 140 (4), December, 521-541.

Most tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) around the world are allocated in rather intransparent ways. Yet, according to the fundamental WTO principles, TRQs are supposed to be allocated in a transparent, equitable and non-discriminatory manner. We argue that auctions offer a promising way to achieve these goals, and at the same time enhance the efficiency of the allocation. Moreover, they provide the means to slowly phase out a quota regime in favor of a tariff-only regime. The biggest challenge in this endeavour is to find an auctioning procedure that operates also well in situations otherwise prone to collusive bidding behavior. We draw from experiences made in government debt auctions to come up with a system that would be resistant to collusion.