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The paper is aimed to examine the role Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures play in quality upgrading of China’s imported agricultural products. Based on export data to China from UN Comtrade on agricultural products on the HS6-digit level from 156 countries in 2002-2017, this paper employed Proximity-to-the-Frontier Model to discover the upgrading effect SPS measures have after measuring the quality with Nested Logit Model. The study found that implementing SPS measures exerts a long-term positive effect on quality upgrading. Particularly, SPS measures tend to discourage bulk agricultural products close to world frontier from innovation and quality upgrading, exhibiting a more pronounced opposite of the escape-competition effect. Therefore, it is recommended that Chinese quarantine and market supervision departments should learn from the inspection processes of developed countries in relation to agricultural products and appropriately refine SPS measures to improve the quality of agricultural imports for the health and safety of domestic consumers.
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