Export subsidies to domestic producers may be either generally or selectively applied, covering all commodity exports, or specific products only. General export subsidies are used by government to increase employment or to improve the balance of payments. Subsidized producers are able to undercut foreign competitors by offering their output at less than its real social cost and are thereby able to increase their share of world markets. Although general export subsidies may be effective in correcting a payments imbalance, they cause a misallocation of world resources. The subsidy encourages producers to expand export production to levels at which the marginal social costs in the subsidizing country exceed the free international prices of export goods. This leads to a decline in potential real income in the world economy. Selective subsidies are also sometimes employed to improve the balance of payments, but most often they are expected to provide special economic assistance to particular industries. They also bring about an inefficient allocation of world resources. Countervailing duties are imposed by some countries in the case of imported products for which domestic producers receive an export subsidy.
Incentive schemes which result in indiscriminate use of export subsidies may lead to the establishment of uneconomic and inefficient production in developing countries; and encourage damaging competition among these countries in export markets, which could be particularly detrimental to the interest of those countries not in a position to resort to export subsidies to the same extent.
As far as developing countries are concerned, there is some recognition and acceptance that properly formulated and implemented export incentive schemes have a role to play in promotion and development of their exports of manufactures.