WTO members have agreed on reforms to further improve the review of members’ trade policies and practices and the monitoring of the global trading environment. The decision to implement changes, such as adjusting the frequency of Trade Policy Reviews, was taken at a meeting of the Trade Policy Review Body on December 21 ,2016 following completion of the sixth appraisal of the Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM).
After six months of intensive work and discussions to review the functioning of the TPRM, the Trade Policy Review Body accomplished its work plan for the appraisal exerciseand reached a consensus at the December meeting to make changes to the mechanism. One important decision emerging from the appraisal process is to adjust the cycle of TPRs to ensure their continued effectiveness amid the rising number of WTO members. The current review cycle which have members undergoing a TPR every 2, 4 or 6 years depending on the size of their economy will be changed to frequencies of 3, 5, or 7 respectively. The new arrangement will be phased in starting from 2019.
The TPRM, which includes regular Trade Policy Reviews for WTO members and a monitoring of developments in the international trading environment, was initially established in 1989 under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and made permanent under the WTO, as part of the 1994 Uruguay Round agreements to improve members’ adherence to their WTO commitments and contribute to the smooth functioning of the trading system.
Director-General Roberto Azevêdo commended members for concluding the appraisal and agreeing on improvements to the TPRM.
“The monitoring and review of trade policies is essential to the health of the global trading system, so I congratulate members on the successful completion of the Sixth Appraisal of the Trade Policy Review Mechanism. The changes agreed by members today will help to strengthen the mechanism,” DG Azevêdo said.
The chair of the Trade Policy Review Body, Ms. Irene Young (Hong Kong, China), led the appraisal process and helped forge consensus to enhance the TPRM.
“I wish to thank all members who had contributed to the Appraisal, in particular the more than 20 delegations which had submitted proposals to provide a basis for this dynamic and constructive exercise. Each member has a role to play in the TPRM. As we progressively improve the mechanism, everyone stands to benefit,” said Ms. Young.
Besides the decision to amend the TPR cycles, members also agreed to revise the timeline for the question-and-answer process of the TPRs, so that members under review who opt to provide early written answers to other members’ questions will have one more week to prepare the answers. Members also noted efforts by the Secretariat to develop an information technology system to better manage this question-and-answer process. Furthermore, to enhance the transparency of trade policies, there was agreement to establish a regular practice for members to provide brief reports on significant changes in their policies during trade monitoring meetings.
The next appraisal is due not later than 2021.