(general) The mutual exchange of privileges or benefits. Also called “mutuality of benefits,” “quid pro quo,” and “equivalence of advantages.”
(international trade) The practice by which governments extend similar concessions to each other, as when one government lowers its tariffs or other barriers (non-tariff barriers) impeding its imports in exchange for equivalent concessions from a trading partner on barriers affecting its exports (a “balance of concessions”). Reciprocity has traditionally been a principal objective of negotiators in the World Trade Organization (WTO) “Rounds.”
In practice, this principle applies only in negotiations between developed countries. Because of the frequently wide disparity in their economic capacities and potential, the relationship between developed and developing countries is generally not one of equivalence.
The concept of “relative reciprocity” has emerged to characterize the practice by developed countries to seek less than full reciprocity from developing countries in trade negotiations.