Hoi4 Best Trade Law – Which One Should You Use?


Deciding upon the best trade law in Hearts of Iron 4 can be a touch choice – trade and export laws in Hoi4 are such important variables to be aware of – providing substantial benefits to your nation – at the cost of your precious and vital resources. It is for this reason that trade laws should not be ignored in Hoi4. So in this guide, we will try to answer the all-important question: what is the best trade law in Hoi4?

Hoi4 best trade law front cover

Firstly, What Are The Trade Laws? What Do They Do? Where Do You Find Them?

Trade laws in Hearts of Iron 4 are a set of 4 choices for how your nation will handle the departments of international trade. As Tino Dubois explains in his Free Trade vs Closed Economy guide – trade laws give bonuses to your economy and research based on the level of law you have enacted. In exchange for these bonuses – the laws set aside a percentage of your extracted resources for export, where other nations can then purchase those resources using their civilian factories.

The trade law tab is located in the political tab, accessible by clicking your flag in the top left. Upon doing this, navigate to the “Laws & Government” section, and you will see something like this:

hoi4 best trade law
Your trade law option is the second icon in from the left, once you click on that, you’ll be presented with a window like the one below – including 4 options. These are your trade laws.
hoi4 best trade law

Now, it is unlikely that all 4 options will be available to you right from the start of the game. Free trade and export focus are available to all nations from the start of the game – with the exception of Poland – who needs to complete some national focuses in order to be able to do this. In order to move to limited exports – your requirements differ based on your ideology and country – the requirements for all major scenarios are as follows:

1. If you’re democratic – you must be at war, and your enemy must have at least 20% of your total factories. So if you had 100 total factories – your enemy would need at least 20.

2. If you’re not democratic, you must simply militarise your economy to the point of at least partial mobilisation, and then you’ll be able to move to this trade law.

3. If you’re Nationalist China (Just labelled “China” on the map) – be sure to get rid of the “Nine Power Treaty” through your national focuses.

Finally, to use closed-economy – you must either be Fascist or Communist, you must be at war, and you must have at least war economy enabled through your economic options.

So – What Are the Modifiers At Play Here? What Do They Do?

Now that we know where to find the trade law tab – and how to change our trade law – we can now dissect each of the modifiers present in the trade law’s bonuses – and discuss what they actually mean for your nation. A breakdown of each of the modifiers can be found below:

hoi4 best trade law
  • Construction Speed: This value gives your nation a bonus to the construction of all buildings – as such this is a sizable boost to receive.
  • Research Speed: This value applies a 10% speed bonus to all technology researched  – another sizable buff to get your hands on.
  • Factory Output: This modifier grants you an efficiency buff to your military factories’ production lines
  • Dockyard Output: This modifier grants you an efficiency buff to your naval dockyards’ production lines
  • Resources to Market: Arguably the most important facet of your trade law – resources to market dictates the percentage of your extracted resources that will be removed from your military stockpile in order to be traded on the market. Ensuring that you still have enough resources to produce your equipment will probably be your primary reason for picking one trade law over another – or moving between trade laws.
hoi4 best trade law

One additional thing to note here is that there is a reasonably high likelihood that putting more of your resources out onto the market will result in more civilian factories from trade – offsetting the loss in resources. This trade income will depend largely on the amount of allies/neutral countries you have – and whether you are playing in multiplayer or single player. This is an extra, vital factor to consider when deciding upon the best hoi4 trade law.

  • Intelligence to Others: The final two modifiers have been grouped into one – because they do very similar things and are largely unimportant. They increase the amount of civilian intel (trade, manpower, laws etc) and navy intel (locations of ships, etc) you send to other nations. To be honest – these factors should rarely come into major consideration when deciding on a trade law.

Hoi4 Best Trade Law – The 4 Laws Directly Compared

Comparing each of the trade laws is a little complicated – as they all have their advantages and disadvantages. So – we’ll go through each of the laws and discuss when it’s probably best to utilise them – and then we will use a historical Germany game as an example of how you should use trade laws throughout the game.

First up – Free Trade:

hoi4 best trade law
hoi4 best trade law

Free trade gives truly massive bonuses to construction and research speed and military output – but, this comes at the cost of a staggering 80% of your resources going onto the market. This will make producing any substantial amount of equipment nearly impossible for all but the very largest of nations.

It is for this reason that free trade has a few key use cases – but is certainly not a no-brains pick as it may at first appear – these recommended use cases would be as follows:

  1. Any nation that doesn’t need to produce masses of equipment right at the start of the game can use Free Trade to great effect to receive its bonuses before the need for mass production comes around. So this will work well for countries who enter the war later – like the US or Soviets – but not very well for countries like Japan who go to war very early.
  2. Nations with vast deposits of most resources, or nations who have lots of one particular type of resource that they need to trade to build an industry more quickly. The first group would only really include the US and Soviet Union, while the second group could include the likes of South Africa, Turkey, Cuba, Portugal, Romania, Iran, Venezuela and others. These countries are largely minor powers who can use the additional factories from more open trade policies – in addition with the direct buffs provided by the policy – to quickly industrialise in ways otherwise not achievable.
  3. Nations with almost no resources – these nations lose essentially nothing from having such an open trade law – and as such should take it for the extra bonuses you get.

If you’re not bothered about resource losses – free trade has some excellent buffs which certainly put it in the conversation for the best trade law hoi4.

Next – Export Focus – Is This the “Hoi4 Best Trade Law”?:

hoi4 best trade law
hoi4 best trade law

Export focus is kind of the middle ground when it comes to trade policies – you get a good range of buffs – with less of a resource burden to go along with it. Export Focus is the standard for the majority of nations in Hoi4 – with only a few major deviations for historical or ideological reasons.

It is for this reason that Export Focus can typically be used for the entire game – it may not be the most optimum option available at all stages (Free Trade outclasses it at the beginning of the game – while limited or closed may well be necessary later on) but it is one you can keep for the entire game in many cases – with reasonable bonuses to go along with it. This is probably the closest you’ll get to a hoi4 best trade law.

Thirdly – Limited Exports:

hoi4 best trade law
hoi4 best trade law

Limited Exports sacrifices the majority of its buffs in order to reduce the amount of resources being put on the market to just 25% – making military build-up much easier. But due to the lack of buffs, and the lack of many civilian factories from trade – going to this trade law should only really be done when resources become a significant issue – and when significantly more civilian factories are being spent to purchase resources than are being received through trade.

Fascist nations start with this enabled, and while this makes sense for Japan and Italy, who have very small resource stockpiles that they need to create large, early game armies – it doesn’t work very well for Germany – as we’ll get into shortly.

Finally – Closed Economy:

hoi4 best trade law
hoi4 best trade law

A more extreme version of limited economy – closed economy should typically only be used by nations with large militaries and resource stockpiles who need all those resources at home in order to produce equipment – and those nations who lack many people to trade with, either through blockades or negative relations.

In-game scenario to find the “best trade law hoi4”: Germany:

hoi4 best trade law

With the numbers out of the way – we will now discuss an actual in-game scenario – that being historical Germany. Germany begins the game with limited exports enabled – which is almost certainly not the most efficient law for the nation at this time. Germany can use the buffs from Free Trade to rapidly industrialise, while still generally having enough resources to fuel their military without much importing.

The important thing for Germany here is resource priority. Before the war – Germany will need large amounts of tungsten and chromium for medium and heavy tanks – both of which it has very little of – meaning we are not losing anything substantial by going to Free Trade at this time – as these resources will have to either be conquered or traded for anyway, and you can’t export a resource that you don’t have. The other resource that Germany needs substantial amounts of pre-war is rubber, which will also have to either be traded for or produced at refineries regardless of trade law – so going free trade or export focus at this time is a no-brainer.

The rest of the resources, namely steel and aluminium, Germany probably has enough of to produce what it needs early on – mostly guns and planes respectively, meaning we can safely stay on Free Trade until the war starts, and trading becomes more difficult.

After the war starts – it is advisable to move to at least export focus if you have not already done so – as this will reduce your resources to market – meaning you will have enough resources for all of your newly acquired factories. Export focus still grants solid economic and technological buffs regardless.

As the game goes on – Germany will likely find that its military industry is too large to operate on Export Focus – and it is at this point that they should swap to limited exports or closed economy – this could be during Operations Barbarossa – or in preparation for D-day. These two laws will prioritise resources for the war effort – which Germany will probably need to do at this time.

With All That Said – Which Trade Law Is Best In Hoi4?

Finally – we can decide which trade law is best – but the truth is, there isn’t really a best trade law. Unlike industries in Hoi4 – each trade law more or less has a place in the game, depending on who you are playing as, and what stage of the game you are at. A quick roundup of when to use each of the laws can be found below:

Free Trade: Free Trade is a great pick for most nations at the start of the game – and especially for those like communist China – who have very few resources to begin with – and as such don’t lose anything. Free Trade will eventually have to be dropped in favour of more restrictive trade policies for most countries – as the war develops and their industries expand.

Export Focus: Export Focus is a great middle ground and safe pick for most of the game – it has good bonuses – along with a balanced resource export for some extra factories. If you wanted to name one the “best” (though it’s probably best not to do so) Export Focus would probably be it.

Limited Exports: Limited Exports is a solid wartime pick for most nations – but struggles for nations with many resources – or almost no resources at the start of the game. Limited exports is only really advisable as an early game pick for nations like Japan and Italy – who need their moderate amount of resources to build large armies early on.

Closed Economy: Finally, closed economy. If you wanted to call one of these laws the “weakest” – closed economy would probably be it. In all but the most dire of situations – Limited Exports finds a better balance and will lead to a larger economy overall. Closed Economy is only really advisable in the middle of a long war – where resource shortages may become a major issue.


There we have it – all four trade laws compared in Hoi4. Unlike industries – it is rather hard to pick a strongest option with regards to how your nation should trade. For topics where the strongest options are more clear cut – but a little confusing to an unfamiliar player – take a look at our Hearts of Iron 4 guide collection, which will help you with all of your global conquest needs – thank you for reading, and have a great day!

Avatar for Emmet Bramley

Emmet started his gaming journey as a young child in the early 2010s. Sat in front of his Xbox 360 screaming at other children in Modern Warfare Lobbies... Since these early years - Emmet has continued to diversify his gaming portfolio - by mostly playing the same strategy and survival games for the last 7 years. Regardless, Emmet joined the Console Bandit team in order to share his opinions and insights on his favourite games with a larger audience, and bring a more cinematic perspective to discussing certain games.

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