International Trade Theory and Policy
by Steven M. Suranovic
Voluntary Export Restraints (VERs)
A voluntary export restraint is a restriction set by a government on the quantity of goods that can be exported out of a country during a specified period of time. Often the word voluntary is placed in quotes because these restraints are typically implemented upon the insistence of the importing nations.
Typically VERs arise when the import-competing industries seek protection from a surge of imports from particular exporting countries. VERs are then offered by the exporter to appease the importing country and to avoid the effects of possible trade restraints on the part of the importer. Thus VERs are rarely completely voluntary.
Also, VERs are typically implemented on a bilateral basis, that is, on exports from one exporter to one importing country. VERs have been used since the 1930s at least, and have been applied to products ranging from textiles and footwear to steel, machine tools and automobiles. They became a popular form of protection during the 1980s, perhaps in part because they did not violate countries' agreements under the GATT. As a result of the Uruguay round of the GATT, completed in 1994, WTO members agreed not to implement any new VERs and to phase out any existing VERs over a four year period. Exceptions can be granted for one sector in each importing country.
Some interesting examples of VERs occured with auto exports from Japan in the early 1980s and with textile exports in the 1950s and 60s.
International Trade Theory and Policy - Chapter 10-3: Last Updated on 8/16/03