Briefing note: Trade monitoring

In the wake of the global financial crisis of late 2008, the WTO 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 WTO 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 increase.

Updated: November 2013

THIS EXPLANATION is designed to help the public understand developments in the WTO. While every effort has been made to ensure the contents are accurate, it does not prejudice member governments’ positions.

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These reports are written and published under the mandate given to the WTO's Trade Policy Review Body (TPRB) to undertake an annual overview of developments in the international trading environment. This overview is 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, WTO members considered it appropriate for preliminary reports to be issued ahead of the annual overview.

Following a request by G20 leaders, the WTO Secretariat — together with the secretariats of the OECD and UNCTAD — also prepare regular joint reports on G20 trade and investment measures.

Since 2009, 11 “monitoring reports” on the trade policies and practices of WTO members and observers have been published and discussed by members. The first of these reports was issued in February 2009. Four reports were published in 2009, two in 2010, two in 2011 and two in 2012. The latest, dated 19 July 2013, can be accessed here.

Another nine reports — following the G20 request and including not only trade measures but also investment measures — have been issued: one in 2009, three in 2010, two in 2011 and two in 2012. The latest of these reports, dated 17 June 2013, can be accessed here.

The next reports will be issued on 18 December 2013 for the G20 and on 7 February 2014 for all WTO members.

WTO members recognize the usefulness of the trade monitoring exercise. There is broad consensus for the continuation and strengthening of the current monitoring exercise and for related briefings by the Director-General in international fora, such as the G20.

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


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