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MINISTERIAL CONFERENCES

Briefing note: Trade monitoring

In the wake of the global financial crisis of late 2008, the Director-General started regular reports on trade developments which have an impact on the multilateral trading system. The purpose of these “monitoring” reports is to enhance transparency of trade policy developments around the world and to provide Members with an up-to-date picture of trends in the implementation of trade restrictions, in particular in times of economic crisis when protectionist pressures surge

These reports are written and published under the mandate given to the Trade Policy Review Body to undertake an annual overview of developments in the international trading environment. This overview has to be assisted by a report by the Director General highlighting significant policy issues affecting the trading system. Given the severity of the global crisis and the dangers of protectionism, Members considered appropriate the issuing of preliminary reports ahead of the annual overview.

Also, following a request by G-20 Leaders, the WTO Secretariat, together with the Secretariats of the OECD and UNCTAD, prepare regular joint reports on G20 trade and investment measures.

Since 2009, eight “monitoring reports” on the trade policies and practices of WTO Members and Observers (“WTO-wide reports”) have been published and discussed by Members. The first of such reports was issued in February 2009. Four reports were published in 2009, two in 2010 and two in 2011. The latest, dated 21 November can be accessed here.

Apart from these reports, another six, following the G-20 request and including not only trade measures but also investment measures, have been issued: one in 2009, three in 2010 and two in 2011. The latest of these reports, dated 25 October, can be accessed here.

TPRB members recognize the usefulness of the trade monitoring exercise.  There is broad consensus for the continuation and strengthening of the current monitoring exercise on trade and trade-related measures and related briefings by the Director-General in international fora such as the G-20.

The reports, which are issued on a regular basis, are discussed at meetings of the TPRB.  The WTO Secretariat consults closely with all delegations to gather complete, up-to-date and accurate information on their trade and trade-related measures, and to verify the relevant information collected from other non-official sources.

During the various meetings of the TPRB held since early 2009 to discuss the Director-General's trade monitoring reports, delegations have recognized the positive contribution of the WTO’s regular monitoring of trade measures to containing protectionist pressures, in particular in the context of the global financial and economic crises.  They recognized the usefulness and importance of this transparency exercise.  Members reaffirmed their commitment to enhanced transparency in trade policy and to a multilateral surveillance of trade measures.  They called for the continuation and strengthening of the Trade Monitoring Exercise under the TPRB.