Discussion paper

DP14833 Rethinking International Subsidy Rules

Geo-economic tensions, notably associated with the rise of China, and global collective action problems – climate change; the COVID-19 pandemic – call for international cooperation to revise and develop rules to guide both the use of domestic subsidies and responses by governments to cross-border competition spillover effects. Current WTO rules dividing all subsidies into prohibited or actionable categories are no longer fit for purpose. Piecemeal efforts in preferential trade agreements and bi- or trilateral configurations offer a basis on which to build but are too narrow in scope. Addressing spillover effects of subsidies could start with G20 countries launching a work program to mobilize an epistemic community concerned with subsidy policies, tasked with building a more solid evidence base on the magnitude, purpose and effects of subsidy policies. The need for such cooperation has become even more pressing by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated increase in the use of subsidy programs in major economies.


Nelson, D (2020), ‘DP14833 Rethinking International Subsidy Rules‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14833. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14833