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MFN

Picture Trade: Types of tariffs explained

Siddhesh Kaushik's picture

Let’s start with the basics. What is a trade tariff? It’s a customs duty, or tax, on imported merchandise. For example, if a store owner is importing shoes, a tariff collected by her government might add to the price she has to pay for them. There has been a global effort to reduce tariffs around the world because they make goods more expensive for firms and consumers alike. Lowering tariffs was a major objective of the Uruguay round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization. But in certain circumstances, some governments consider tariffs helpful as a policy tool – they raise revenues and protect local industry from foreign competition (in the shoe example, a locally produced shoe might be cheaper than the imported one with a tariff).

While we’ve used a simple example, tariffs can be quite complex. There are three main types of tariff and they can be queried in UNCTAD TRAINS available through World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS). The three types of tariff are Most Favored Nation (MFN), Preferential and Bound Tariff.  

How can G20 trade policies benefit developing countries?

Michele Ruta's picture
Cambodia garment factory (Chhor Sokunthea / World Bank)


A key topic for the G20 this year is what can be done to boost inclusiveness in the global economy. Ministers and officials, with advice from the World Bank Group and others, have been looking into what policies they can adopt to maximize the development prospects of lower income countries outside the G20 (what the Turkish Presidency has termed “low-income developing countries” -LIDCs). A critical area of action is in trade – an area where G20 countries have asked the Bank Group to survey the current situation and provide recommendations.

In our work, we found that the value of LIDC imports and exports has increased substantially over the last decade, but it still represents only between 3 and 4% of world trade (Figure 1). The share of LIDC exports in the global services market is similarly low and has remained stagnant during the last 3 decades. Although there are some exceptions – Vietnam and the Philippines – LIDCs are poorly integrated into global value chains (GVCs) – they constitute only 3% of world imports in parts and components.

G20 countries are the main trading partners of LIDCs. Around 70% of imports of LIDCs come from the G20 and around 80% of LIDC exports are directed to the G20. Trade costs between LIDCs and any G20 country, however, are systematically higher than the trade costs between G20 countries or other non-LIDCs and any G20 country (Figure 2).


Naturally, many domestic factors that inhibit the productive capacity of LIDCs contribute to the low connectivity of LIDCs to GVCs and world trade more generally. However, trade policies of G20 members can help low-income developing countries integrate in the world economy. In our analysis for the G20 we reviewed key G20 trade policies and how they could be improved to benefit LIDCs.

Pakistan’s Most Favored Nation Status to India: A Win-Win for the Region?

Tara Beteille's picture

Trade relations between India and Pakistan appear set to improve significantly with Pakistan likely to grant India Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. The potential gains from easier trading relations are considerable for both countries. In 2009-10, official trade between the two stood at $2 billion. Studies suggest this volume could be much higher, absent formal and informal barriers. For instance, a recent SAARC report estimates trade potential to be $12 billion.

What exactly does MFN status mean?

All WTO members are bound to grant MFN treatment to member countries with respect to trade in goods. India granted Pakistan MFN status in 1996, but Pakistan held back, citing strategic considerations. Despite granting Pakistan MFN status, India continued to impose high tariffs on goods of interest to Pakistan—textiles and leather. Thus, merely according MFN status does not imply easier trade. So, does Pakistan’s offer matter? Yes, it does. It signals enthusiasm, goodwill, and a keenness to build peaceful and productive economic and political relations in the region.

Where will the gains come from?