EDEN TREATY OF 1786, commercial treaty between France and the United Kingdom. The Treaty of 1783 ending war between France and the United Kingdom promised that both sides would attempt to agree on new trade arrangements. Throughout the eighteenth century, legal trade between the two nations had been at a reduced level due to restrictions and high tariffs. Smuggling, however, proceeded at a very high rate. Some statesmen in the London government were impressed with A. Smith's arguments for free trade, while others saw British advantage in an opening of France to British exports. At Versailles, interest in freeing trade was even greater. Foreign Minister C.-G. Vergennes and his deputy J.-M.-G. Rayneval wished to foster a rapprochement between France and England and, more specifically, to help augment public finance by increasing customs revenues, promoting French exports, especially wine, and encouraging competition, which "insures the perfection and success of our manufactures" ( Rayneval).
Negotiations began in earnest in April 1786 when W. Pitt's special envoy, W. Eden, arrived at Versailles. The diplomats signed the treaty in September 1786. It was ratified a few months later and went into effect in July and August 1787. The French achieved a 69 percent reduction in British tariffs on their wine but failed to gain admission for their silks. On other major trading items, both sides cut tariffs on hardware and metal to 10 percent ad valorum, on cottons and woolens, porcelain, pottery, and glass to 12 percent. Other provisions eased regulations on merchants and shipping.
The best French and British estimates of legal trade between the countries in this period differ considerably, but they do agree that it increased sharply, more than doubling from the mid-1780s to the early 1790s. No one can say with precision how much of this came as a result of a shift from smuggling to legal trade, but certainly a large part did, benefiting government revenues and consumers in each country. The unreliable statistics do not permit us to say which country increased its legal exports to the other more, but figures from both sides