Concession Agreement Explained

Concession Agreement Explained

A concession agreement is a contract that grants a company the right to operate a business within a government's jurisdiction or on another firm's property, subject to specific terms. They can range from mining concessions worth millions to small concessions in local theaters. When used appropriately, they allow all parties to benefit from their comparative advantage. However, sometimes they can be used to exploit other nations.


A concession agreement is a contract that enables a company, referred to as the concessionaire, to operate a specific business within a government's jurisdiction or on another firm's property under particular terms. These agreements usually involve the non-governmental owner of a facility and the concessionaire. The concessionaire is granted exclusive rights to run their business in the facility for a defined period and according to specific conditions.

A Closer Look at the Concession Agreement

Concession agreements, also known as concession arrangements, are found across various industries and can vary significantly in size and scope. They encompass mining concessions worth millions to small food and beverage concessions in local theaters.

Terms of a Concession Agreement

In these agreements, the concessionaire is typically required to pay fees to the granting party, which are detailed in the contract. Such agreements outline the operation period, insurance requirements, and fees. Payments to the property owner may include rent or a percentage of sales revenue, with other responsibilities, like utilities and maintenance, also specified in the contract.

Desirability and Government Incentives

The terms of a concession agreement depend on its desirability. For instance, operating a food concession in a popular stadium may not yield substantial incentives for the concessionaire, whereas a government seeking to attract mining companies to an impoverished area may offer significant inducements, such as tax breaks and lower royalty rates. The level of attractiveness and profitability of a concession impacts the likelihood of government incentives.

Public Infrastructure Involvement

Concession agreements often involve public infrastructure, such as railways, where rights may be granted exclusively or to multiple organizations. The government may also set rules regarding construction, maintenance, and operational standards as part of the agreement.


Concession agreements are a beneficial form of outsourcing that allows parties to capitalize on their strengths. When a country or company owns resources they cannot effectively use due to limited knowledge or capital, they can outsource their development or operation. By doing so, they can generate more significant returns. For example, a country with untapped offshore oil reserves may lack the expertise and funds to utilize them fully. Through a concession agreement with an experienced oil company, the country can earn revenue and create job opportunities.

Additionally, concession agreements serve as a risk management tool. If a country invests heavily in producing a single commodity, they become vulnerable to price fluctuations in that market. Granting concessions to others reduces their exposure to such capital risks, even though they may miss out on concession fees.


Concession agreements have been historically used to exploit other nations. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, foreign countries and companies compelled China to grant concessions. These agreements allowed foreign entities to develop and operate railways and ports within China. Additionally, citizens of other countries enjoyed extraterritoriality in these concessions, where foreign laws and courts settled disputes between Chinese and foreigners. This often resulted in unfavorable outcomes for Chinese businesses and consumers.

Concession Agreements in Action

A concession agreement is in place between the governments of France and the U.K., involving two private companies, for the Channel Tunnel, commonly known as the "Chunnel." The British Channel Tunnel Group Limited and the French France-Manche S.A. are responsible for operating the tunnel, which facilitates passenger and freight rail traffic between the two countries. The Channel Tunnel spans 31.5 miles, with 23.5 miles running beneath the English Channel, making it the world's longest underwater tunnel and a significant piece of public infrastructure.

On a smaller scale, concession agreements are also used by vendors operating under permissions granted by local governments, corporations, or other property owners. This practice includes restaurants and retail stores in large airports, vendors at state fairs, and food and beverage stands within state parks.


Concession agreements can be a mutually beneficial arrangement for all parties involved, allowing for the efficient use of resources and the generation of revenue. However, they can also be used to exploit weaker nations if not implemented fairly. It is important to understand the terms and potential risks before entering into such an agreement.


Concession Agreement
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