The central pillar of the multilateral rule-based trading system enshrined in the GATT/WTO is the acceptance and operation of the Most Favoured Nation principle. This means that every member of GATT/WTO should invariably accord the same, identical, equal and non-discriminatory treatment to all imports irrespective of the countries of origin.

However, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is an officially agreed exception to the MFN principle which was proposed at the first meeting of the United Nation Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) with a view to assisting the developing countries in their exports and development efforts. In 1964, the First United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) started to look into ways and means of granting special trade preferences to developing countries.

Main objectives of granting trade preferences to developing countries were :

  • To enhance export earnings of developing countries.
  • To promote industrialization, and
  • To encourage the diversification of their economies.

In 1968, UNCTAD recommended the creation of a "Generalized System of Tariff Preferences" under which industrialized countries would grant autonomous trade preferences to all developing countries.

In order to implement the system a waiver was required from Article 1 of the GATT which prohibits discrimination. This waiver was granted in 1971 by adopting the "enabling clause" of the GATT to create the legal framework for the "Generalized System of Tariff Preferences" (GSP). Under this framework developed countries were authorized to establish individual Generalized Schemes of Tariff Preferences.

The enabling clause was adopted originally for ten years, and renewed in 1979, for an indefinite period of time thereafter.

Countries that Extend GSP Benefits

Australia
Belarus
Canada
EU*
Japan
Norway
New Zealand
Russian Federation
Switzerland
Turkey
USA
* EU Member States
Austria
Belgium
Bulgaria
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Germany
Greece

Finland
France
Hungary
Ireland
Italy
Latvia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
Netherlands
Poland

Portugal
Romania
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
United Kingdom