The importance countries attach to the process is reflected in the seniority of the Trade Policy Review Body
— it is the WTO General Council in another guise.
The objectives are:
to increase the transparency and understanding of countries’ trade policies and practices, through regular monitoring
to improve the quality of public and intergovernmental debate on the issues
to enable a multilateral assessment of the effects of policies on the world trading system.
The reviews focus on members’ own trade policies and practices. But they also take into account the countries’ wider economic and developmental needs, their policies and objectives, and the external economic environment that they face. These “peer reviews” by other WTO members encourage governments to follow more closely the WTO rules and disciplines and to fulfil their commitments. In practice the reviews have two broad results: they enable outsiders to understand a country’s policies and circumstances, and they provide feedback to the reviewed country on its performance in the system.
Over a period of time, all WTO members are to come under scrutiny. The frequency of the reviews depends on the country’s size:
The four biggest traders
— the European Union, the United States, Japan and China (the “Quad”) —
are examined approximately once every two years.
The next 16 countries (in terms of their share of world trade) are reviewed every four years.
The remaining countries are reviewed every six years, with the possibility of a longer interim period for the least-developed countries.
For each review, two documents are prepared: a policy statement by the government under review, and a detailed report written independently by the WTO Secretariat. These two reports, together with the proceedings of the Trade Policy Review Body’s meetings are published shortly afterwards.
on trade policy reviews