What is the Most-Favored-Nation Clause?
The most-favored-nation clause is a stipulation that requires a country to provide concessions, privileges, or immunities that are to be granted to one nation in a trade agreement or to be granted to all other countries that are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In international economic relations, it is a status that is meant to promote equal levels of treatment to all member countries in international trade.
Understanding the Most-Favored-Nation Clause
The most favored nation clause is a term that is given to a certain country, and it implies that the recipient of the favorable treatment must receive equal trade advantages as the most favored nation of a country’s trade policy.
It essentially means that any country with “the most favored” nation status cannot be treated any less advantageously as other countries within the World Trade Organization. The WTO promotes equal treatment of all countries regarding trade agreements.
For example, if a country within the World Trade Organization would normally give a tariff of 5% to one country, but a tariff of 7% to other member countries. The most favored nation clause requires them to apply a 5% tariff to all member countries.
Along with the principle of national treatment, which is a principle of international law that requires the treatment of foreigners and local to be equal, the most-favored-nation clause is a foundation of the WTO’s trade law. The organization’s trade law is meant to promote non-discriminatory trade policies between member countries.
An exception to the most-favored-nation clause may be granted to developing countries that can receive more favorable treatment than the most favored nation.
Favorable treatment includes the use of trade benefits, such as:
- Low tariffs
- High import quotas
- Free trade agreements
- Custom unions
A tariff is essentially a tax on imports and exports between trading countries. It is a policy that is usually in place to tax foreign goods and encourage the consumption of domestic products. Tariffs are also used as a form of income for a country’s government. For exporting countries, a low tariff is favorable, as the exporter can trade more freely.
Import quotas refer to a trade restriction that sets an upper limit on the number of goods that can be imported into a country over a given time. It encourages less consumption of foreign goods, and like tariffs, encourages the consumption of domestic products. For exporting countries, securing a high import quota is favorable, as the exporter can export more goods.
Free Trade Agreement
A free trade agreement is a treaty or agreement in international law that forms a free-trade area between the cooperating countries. It encourages more trade and can result in eliminating tariffs and import quotas.
Customs union is a type of trade bloc, which is an area of free trade within member countries that share a common external tariff with non-member countries. They are established through trade pacts and encourages more free trade between member countries.
History of the Most-Favored-Nation Clause
The most-favored-nation status was established between countries as early as the 11th century. The modern concept appeared around the 18th century, where it was usually applied between two countries – one country would grant another the status of “most favored nation.”
Following World War II, there were many trade agreements and tariffs negotiated through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which resulted in the establishment of the World Trade Organization in 1995. The World Trade Organization is an organization that aims to maintain the regulation of international trade between countries.
Benefits of the Most-Favored-Nation Clause
The most-favored-nation clause offers the following benefits:
1. Increases free trade
The most-favored-nation clause increases trade creation and decreases trade diversion, essentially encouraging more free trade between countries. It allows more efficient outcomes since the lowest cost producers can export goods to areas with the highest demand without government intervention.
2. Equal treatment of disadvantaged countries
The most-favored-nation clause allows smaller countries to participate in advantages that they may not normally receive since they are overlooked among the large global trade players. The clause helps the small countries to negotiate favorable trade terms that they normally would not receive.
3. Simplifies trade laws
The implementation of the most-favored-nation clause simplifies the complex trade agreements established bilaterally between countries. If all countries are under the same trade terms, it makes trade laws much simpler.
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