Data on import tariffs are compiled by the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Tariff analysis can be complicated, as different rates apply to different products from different partners. Moreover, the listed or "bound" rates often do not match applied rates. The tariff rankings listed below are based on the World Bank's "weighted mean applied tariff" figures, which account for the volume of imports from different partners, as of 2016.

The countries with the highest import tariffs are the Bahamas, Gabon, Chad and Bermuda. It is important to note, however, that reliable information is missing for dozens of countries. Below are the ten countries with the highest tariffs:

Highest tariffs
Country Weighted mean applied tariff
Bahamas 18.56%
Gabon 16.93%
Chad 16.36%
Bermuda 15.39%
Central African Republic 14.51%
Grenada 12.41%
St. Kitts and Nevis 12.28%
Antigua and Barbuda 11.88%
Nepal 11.66%
Benin 11.57%
Source: World Bank, 2016 data

As the examples above indicate, less-developed countries tend to have the highest trade barriers. Developed countries are generally less restrictive: 27 of the European Union's 28 members, for example, have an applied tariff rate of 1.6% (Iceland's is even lower, at 0.7%). This may not remain the case, however, as political opposition to pro-trade policies spreads in the developed world. Nor are the ten countries with the lowest tariffs all wealthy:

Lowest tariffs
Country Weighted mean applied tariff
Singapore 0.00%
Macao (China) 0.00%
Hong Kong (China) 0.00%
Switzerland 0.00%
Brunei 0.50%
Botswana 0.57%
Georgia 0.66%
Iceland 0.71%
Mauritius 0.74%
Canada 0.85%
Source: World Bank, 2016 data

When Adam Smith published "The Wealth of Nations" in 1776, international trade was dominated by extremely restrictive import tariffs. His influence has contributed to a consensus among economists that lowering barriers to trade encourages economic growth; that consensus was particularly strong among Western economists in the second half of the 20th century, leading to a general decline in tariffs around the world.

Many tariffs still exist, however, even among the most free-market countries. Japan, for example, favors its rice farmers though high import duties, and the U.S. does the same for its peanut farmers. Nor are tariffs the only variety of trade barrier: others include exchange controls, subsidies, fair trade laws, local-content requirments and quotas on imports and exports. Based on this broader view of trade barriers, the Fraser Institute compiled a ranking of countries based on openness to trade in 2014:

  1. What are common reasons for governments to implement tariffs?

    Gain a basic understanding of a government-sanctioned import tariff, what it is meant to accomplish and common reasons for ... Read Answer >>
  2. How does Federal Trade Commission use the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index to evaluate ...

    Understand specific examples of domestic products that rely on protective tariffs to survive. Learn about the varying tariff ... Read Answer >>
  3. What are some examples of free market economies?

    Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia are examples of free market economies. Read Answer >>
  4. How is comparative advantage used as a justification for free trade policies?

    See why comparative advantage leads to the advocacy of free trade policies between international actors and why rent-seeking ... Read Answer >>
  5. What developed countries have the highest concentration in the banking sector?

    Learn about the developed countries that have the greatest concentration in the banking sector and the most important emerging ... Read Answer >>
  6. What barriers to entry exist in the financial services sector?

    Dive into the complicated and controversial relationship between the maintenance of stability in the financial services sector ... Read Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Vanguard's Davis: Tariffs Will Be a Non-Event

    Vanguard isn't concerned about the new tariffs, saying that the policy will have little impact on the economy.
  2. Investing

    How Can ETF Investors Benefit From Trump's Tariffs?

    The anticipated steel and aluminum tariffs present new opportunities, but investors must be careful.
  3. Insights

    Trump's Steel and Aluminum Tariffs: What You Need to Know

    A look at key issues regarding the latest import tariffs on steel and aluminium announced by President Trump
  4. Investing

    Wall Street's Biggest Fear Is Trade War: Survey

    A trade war sparked by Trump's tariffs is the biggest concern among market watchers, says CNBC.
  5. Insights

    The Dark Side Of The WTO

    The World Trade Organization has its share of detractors. Find out why this international entity has such harsh critics.
  6. Insights

    3 Times the WTO Got It Right This Century

    Learn how the World Trade Organization (WTO) is facilitating landmark trade agreements that benefit both corporations and consumers.
  7. Trading

    SunPower Breaks Out After Seeking Exemption

    SunPower shares moved sharply higher after the company requested an exemption from Trump's solar tariffs.
  8. Insights

    A Brief History of International Trade Agreements

    Since the mercantilist era, world trade has become increasingly multilateral, but since WW2 there has been a definite rise in regional trade agreements.
  9. Insights

    IMF Says Trade Barriers Will Hamper Global Growth

    Rising support for protectionist policies in countries around the world will hamper global economic growth, IMF officials say
  10. Insights

    The Effect Of Trade On International Growth

    According to the World Trade Organization, world merchandise trade value grew by 20% in 2011, to $16.7 trillion.
  1. Balanced Trade

    A condition in which an economy runs neither a trade surplus ...
  2. Protectionism

    Protectionism refers to government actions and policies that ...
  3. Import Duty

    Import duty is a tax collected on imports and some exports by ...
  4. Quota

    A quota is a government-imposed trade restriction limiting the ...
  5. Nontariff Barrier

    A nontariff barrier is a trade restriction that takes a different ...
  6. General Agreement On Tariffs And Trade

    A treaty created following the conclusion of World War II. The ...
Trading Center