How Trade Works in EU4 (Complete Essentials Guide)

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Trade is the lifeblood of empires.

To profit from it, you must first learn how it works. And this guide will cover everything you’d want to know.


Quick Guide on EU4 Trade

Note: Think of this section as a beginner’s to-do list. The terms and jargon used here will be explained further in this guide.

1. Familiarize yourself with these map modes:

  • Economic
    • Trade
    • Trade Value
    • Trade Goods
  • Geographic
    • Colonial and Trade Regions

Tip: You can drag their icon into a quick map slot to keep them handy. It’s recommended that you do so for the Trade map mode, as you’ll be switching to it a lot.

Trade Map Mode Displaying the Persia Node and Dragging the Icon to the Quick Slot / EU4
Trade Map Mode Displaying the Persia Node and Dragging the Icon to the Quick Slot

2. In the Trade map mode, go to your capital (hotkey: “Home”). The trade node that it belongs to is your main source of trade income.

Click to Open Its Trade Node UI / EU4
Click to Open Its Trade Node UI

3. Click on a trade node’s icon (the bigger one with the numbers) to open its UI. The top of it will show its connected trade nodes. The top-left are its downstream nodes; the top-right are its upstream nodes. Click on any to instantly switch to that node.

Top of the Trade Node UI / EU4
Top of the Trade Node UI

4. Open the UI for the nodes that are downstream of your home node. Assign merchants to do the “Transfer Trade” task.

Merchant Actions in the Trade Node UI / EU4
Merchant Actions in the Trade Node UI

5. If you have light ships, have them do the “Protect Trade” mission on your home node or its downstream nodes.

“Protect Trade” Fleet Mission / EU4
“Protect Trade” Fleet Mission

6. In the Trade map mode, the small blue square icons are centers of trade (CoTs) and estuaries. Build marketplaces on top of them and upgrade CoTs to level 2. This increases your trade power in those trade nodes.

Click on the CoT Icon in the Buildings UI to Upgrade Them / EU4
Click on the CoT Icon in the Buildings UI to Upgrade Them

7. Improve your provinces’ base production to raise their trade value. This also increases your trade income. Focus on those that have high-value trade goods.

8. When taking provinces in a peace deal, prioritize ones that have CoTs or high-value trade goods.


Basic Trade Terms Explained in Detail


Trade Income

You get income by “collecting value” from trade nodes, which is done in two ways:

  1. Designating a province as your main trade city
  2. Assigning a merchant to collect trade from a trade node
Main Trade City

Your main trading city always collects value from the trade node it’s in. This’ll be your “home trade node”.

At the start, your capital is also your main trade city. To change it to another province:

  1. Left-click on your chosen province to open its Province View
  2. Press the second button on the top-left

This costs 200 diplo mana.

Click to Move Your Main Trading City Here / EU4
Click to Move Your Main Trading City Here

Note: If an event or decision relocates your capital, your main trading city will also be moved along with it. You’ll have to designate your main trading city again, which can be a waste of diplo mana.


Merchants can be assigned to a trade node that’s within your trade range.

They can either collect that node’s value, or they can transfer its value to a specified node downstream.

Note: Collecting value from nodes other than your home node has a -50% trade power penalty. Thus, it’s best to have your merchants transfer trade from nodes that’re upstream of your home node.

You normally have 2 merchants at the start. To learn how to get more, check out this guide.

Merchants also enable special trade policies on their assigned nodes. These apply certain effects:

Trade Policy Effect Condition
Maximize Profit +5% Trade Power Always available
Hostile Trading +25% Spy Network Construction on all nations with a merchant or their main trade city in the node Always available
Improve Inland Routes +10% Siege Ability and +1 Artillery Bonus on all forts within the trade region Available in nodes where you’ve at least 50% market share
Establish Communities +15% Improve Relations with all nations with a merchant or their main trade city in the affected node Always available
Propagate Religion The node’ll act as a Center of Reformation. It’ll slowly convert all provinces in its trade region. Only available for Muslims (and Majapahit after their “The Porch of Mecca” mission)

Available in nodes where you’ve at least 50% market share


Trade Nodes

The world is divided into predefined trade nodes. These are connected by fixed trade routes that “flow” in one direction — downstream.

Trade Node UI / EU4
Trade Node UI

Certain trade nodes can be classified as origin or end nodes.

Origin Nodes

Origin nodes don’t have upstream nodes where they can receive trade value from. This makes them the least valuable trade nodes.

These nodes are:

Trade Node Subcontinent
Hudson Bay
Rio Grande
North America
South America
Great Lakes
Lhasa Asia
End Nodes

These don’t have any downstream nodes.

There are only three of them, ranked from best to worst:

  • English Channel
  • Genoa
  • Venice

All world trade can eventually flow into these three nodes. This gives them the potential to become the richest nodes in the game.


Trade Value

To understand where a trade node gets its value, consider these two simplified equations:

Trade node value = the sum of all of its provinces’ local trade value + incoming value from upstream nodes

Local trade value = (province’s trade good price x province’s goods produced) x trade value modifier

To put it simply, a trade node gets more trade value locally by increasing any of its provinces’ base production.

You then add any incoming value that’s being transferred from upstream nodes.

Breakdown of Persia’s Trade Value / EU4
Breakdown of Persia’s Trade Value

As an example, focus on this section of the previous image of Persia.

Its provinces are creating +16.65 trade value. It’s receiving +110.87 trade value from upstream. -10.84 of its value is being pulled downstream.

This leaves Persia with 116.69 trade value.

Trade Goods

Every province produces only one type of trade good. Their price and the amount of goods produced affect the value they add to a trade node.

You can check the current prices of all trade goods in the ledger (hotkey: L).

You don’t have any influence over the prices — only scripted events can change them.

What you can control is a province’s base production. By improving it, you’ll increase the province’s number of goods produced.

Trade Section of the Province UI / EU4
Trade Section of the Province UI

Note: Gold is a special trade good. It goes directly to your treasury rather than adding value to a trade node.

Strategic Bonus

Trade goods have two bonuses:

  1. A local bonus which applies to provinces that produce them
  2. A strategic bonus which applies to your entire country

To get the second one, you’ll need to be trading in at least 20% of a trade good’s global supply.

You can check what the bonuses are in the ledger.


Trade Power

Trade power determines how much value a nation can collect or transfer in a trade node.

In general, you want to increase your trade power in nodes with a lot of competition.

Provincial Trade Power

A province’s trade power is based on:

  • +0.2 per development
  • +2 if it’s producing silk
  • +10 with an estuary

This is further modified by:

  • +2% per mercantilism stat
  • +10% if you’ve embraced Colonialism
  • +10% if it’s producing fur, tobacco, incense, or dye
  • +20% if it’s producing cloves
  • +25% if it’s a coastal province
  • +50% with a marketplace
  • +100% with a trade depot
  • +125% with a stock exchange
  • -0.5% per local autonomy
  • -25% if its under siege
  • -50% if its occupied
Centers of Trade (CoT)

Some provinces have centers of trade. These have a special icon in the Trade map mode and in the Buildings UI.

CoTs raise their province’s trade power depending on their level.

CoT Level Trade Power Upgrade Cost (Ducats)
1 +5 0
2 +10 200
3 +25 1000

You can only have a limited number of level 3 CoTs. This limit is equal to your max number of merchants.

Light Ships

Light ships have a trade power stat.

Ship Class Trade Power Diplo Tech Required
Barque +2 2
Caravel +2.5 9
Early Frigate +3 15
Frigate +3.5 19
Heavy Frigate +4 23
Great Frigate +5 26

They can artificially strengthen your trade presence by doing the “Protect Trade” mission in a node.

If this fleet is led by an admiral, their trade power will be increased by +5% per maneuver pip.


Trade Companies

Non-state provinces (a.k.a., territories) can be added to a trade company if:

  • They’re not in the same subcontinent as your capital
  • They’re in a trade region and not a colonial region

You can add an eligible province to a trade company via their Province UI.

Click on This Button to Add This Province to the Region’s Trade Company / EU4
Click on This Button to Add This Province to the Region’s Trade Company

Trade company provinces have:

  • +25% governing capacity cost
  • +100% local trade power
  • -200% missionary strength
  • Negates all penalties from religion and culture
  • +10% institution spread

Each one also adds +0.5 to your naval force limit.

Territories with CoTs should be added to a trade company. You’re effectively doubling their trade power.

Once a trade company’s provincial trade power has at least 51% of a node’s market control, you’ll get an extra merchant.

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Louie Nelson Zafico

As a frustrated otter who dreams of getting published, Louie instead wastes his life cuddling his cats. He spent his childhood playing Suikoden, grew up with Total War, and matured (somewhat) with EU4. He hopes to someday find a geopolitical JRPG with the 4X systems of a Paradox game.