Schedule of concessions on goods

Category: International Trade Sub-category: Export Import Procedures
Document type: article

Schedule of concessions on goods

WTO negotiations produce general rules that apply to all Members, and specific commitments made by individual Member governments. The specific commitments are listed in documents called “schedules of concessions”, which reflect specific tariff concessions and other commitments that they have given in the context of trade negotiations, such as the Uruguay Round. For trade in goods in general, these usually consist of maximum tariff levels which are often referred to as “bound tariffs” or “bindings” (GATT Article II). In the case of agricultural products, these concessions and commitments also relate to tariff rate quotas, limits on export subsidies, and some kinds of domestic support. All WTO Members have a schedule of concessions which is either annexed to the Marrakesh Protocol to the GATT 1994 or to a Protocol of Accession. The content of the schedules change over time to take account of different modifications, such as GATT Article XXVIII negotiations or rectification procedures. This is the reason why determining a Member's concession for a specific tariff line could involve, in some cases, examining several different legal instruments.

One of the achievements of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade talks was to increase the amount of trade under binding commitments (see table). In agriculture, 100% of products now have bound tariffs. The result of all this: a substantially higher degree of market security for traders and investors.

The Uruguay Round increased number of bindings
Percentages of tariffs bound before and after the 1986-94 talks




Developed countries



Developing countries



Transition economies



(These are tariff lines, so percentages are not weighted according to trade volume or value)
Source: The Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations: Market Access for Goods and Services — Overview of the Results, Geneva, 1994.  

Each schedule consists of four parts:

  • Part I : Most-favoured-nation or MFN concessions, maximum tariffs to goods from other WTO members. Part I is further divided into:
    - Section 1A — tariffs on agricultural products
    - Section 1B — tariff quotas on agricultural products
    - Section II — Other products   
  • Part II: Preferential concessions (tariffs relating to trade arrangements listed in GATT Article I)   
  • Part III: Concessions on non-tariff measures (NTMs)   
  • Part IV: Specific commitments on domestic support and export subsidies on agricultural products

Each schedule contains the following information:

  • Tariff item number
  • Description of the product
  • Rate of duty
  • Present concession established
  • Initial Negotiation Rights (or INR, such as main suppliers of product)
  • Concession first incorporated in a GATT Schedule
  • INR on earlier occasions
  • Other duties and charges
  • For agricultural products special safeguards may also be define

The tariff schedules follow the format called the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (“Harmonized System”), established by the World Customs Organization (WCO) (opens in new window). This system for classifying goods trade internationally entered into force in 1988 for those countries which were members of WCO and contains more than 5,000 six-digit subheadings, which may be subdivided further to reflect national administrative and statistical requirements.