Standards and International Trade Integration: A Historical Review of the German ‘Reinheitsgebot’
The Bavarian beer law of 1516, that later morphed into the German ‘Reinheitsgebot’ (purity law) is often seen as one of the oldest known food laws and is also an example of a unilateral production standard that has become a non-tariff barrier to trade. The European Court of Justice decided in 1987 that the German standard hampered free trade in the European Community and forced a national repeal of the law. Today, German beer producers are still subject to legal production standards with origins in the original Reinheitsgebot, but imported beers need not adhere to the strict requirements. This chapter provides a brief historical overview of the evolution and adoption of the Reinheitsgebot. It proceeds by presenting a simple analytical framework to analyze its economic effects on consumers, domestic producers, and foreign suppliers. Finally, it discusses the developments on the German beer market after opening to imports, using statistical data.
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