According to the Washington Consensus, developing countries growth would benefit from a reduction in tariffs and other barriers to trade. But a backlash against this view now suggests that trade policies have little or no impact on growth.
If "getting policies right" is wrong or infeasible, this leaves only the more tenuous objective of "getting institutions right" (Easterly 2005, Rodrik 2006). However, the empirical basis for judging recent trade reforms is weak.
Econometrics are mostly ad hoc; results are typically not judged against models; trade policies are poorly measured (or not measured at all, as when trade volumes are spuriously used); and the most influential studies in the literature are based on pre-1990 experience (which predates the "Great Liberalisation" in developing countries which followed the GATT Uruguay Round).
The authors address all of these concerns and find evidence that a specific treatment, liberalising tariffs on imported capital and intermediate goods, did lead to faster GDP growth, and by a margin consistent with theory (about 1 percentage point per annum).
Antoni Estevadeordal, Alan M. Taylor Is the Washington Consensus Dead? Growth, Openness, and the Great Liberalization, 1970s-2000s
For text: http://papers.nber.org/papers/W14264
FMF Policy Bulletin/ 02 September 2008