OECD Development Centre Working Papers

The OECD Development Centre links OECD members with developing and emerging economies and fosters debate and discussion to seek creative policy solutions to emerging global issues and development challenges. This series of working papers is intended to disseminate the OECD Development Centre’s research findings rapidly among specialists in the field concerned. These papers are generally available in the original English or French, with a summary in the other language.

English, French

Comparative Advantage

Theory and Application to Developing Country Agriculture

This paper investigates the application of the principle of comparative advantage to policy analysis and policy formulation. It is concerned with both the theory and the measurement of comparative advantage. Despite its central role in economics, the theory is found to be at an impasse, with its usefulness confined mainly to the illustration of economic principles which in practice are not borne out by the evidence.

The considerable methodological problems associated with the measurement of comparative advantage are highlighted in the paper. Attempts to derive indicators of comparative advantage, such as those associated with "revealed comparative advantage", "direct resource cost", "production cost" and "trade liberalisation" studies are reviewed. These methods are enlightening, but are unable to provide general perspectives which allow an analysis of dynamic comparative advantage. Comparative advantage, despite its centrality to economics, remains remote from policy ...


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