One of the quintessential features of quantum information is its exclusivity, the inability of strong quantum correlations to be shared by many physical systems. Likewise, complementarity has a similar status in quantum mechanics as the sine qua non of quantum phenomena. We show that this is no coincidence, and that the central role of exclusivity in quantum information theory stems from the phenomenon of complementarity. We adopt an information-theoretic approach to complementarity, which leads to a new and simple definition of private states and new proofs of the achievable asymptotic rates of both secret key and entanglement distillation. From the latter follows a new proof of the direct part of the quantum noisy channel coding theorem.