The World Trade Organisation (WTO) conducts periodical Trade Policy Reviews (TPRs) of all its Members. TPRs are country-specific reviews of the trade policies and practices of WTO Members, with the purpose of contributing to an improved adherence to WTO rules and disciplines, as well as enhancing the WTO principle of transparency. They also help to analyse the policies applied vis-à-vis the objectives sought by the reviewed Member. In this way, they aim to promote both a better functioning of the world trading system and more development-consistent trade policies.
It is important to note that while the recommendations are not binding, and are not intended to impose new obligations, enforce existing commitments or act as a basis for dispute settlement procedures, they have been a catalyst for Members to reconsider existing policies. Recommandations have served as input into policy formulation as well as have helped identify technical assistance needs. Indeed, the information and analysis contained in the report provide excellent material for reaching these objectives, but as there is no obligation to follow the recommendations, it is up to the country to use the report according to its priorities and resources. According to the WTO secretariat, the follow-up between TPRs is often weak probably due to a lack of human resources devoted to this. Indeed, a significant effort is required, especially for resource-constrained WTO Members, to build up on the recommendations, feed them into a plan to reform trade policies and develop a road map for effective reform.
IDEAS Centre’s two-fold approach in the TPR process
IDEAS Centre believes that TPRs offer a unique opportunity to galvanise internal efforts towards a streamlined presentation of trade measures and policies, which can then aid in sketching a roadmap of effective trade reforms as well as a clear identification of critical areas in which investment would produce multiplied returns.
The overall objective of IDEAS Centre’s assistance is to improve trade policies as an instrument to achieve the reviewed country’s overall sustainable development goals as well as to assess the economic integration of the country in economic regional and global contexts. In line with the reviewed country’s national interests, IDEAS Centre seeks to help establishing a coherent framework for policy changes and investment and to strengthen the cohesion between trade policies and technical assistance.
In TPR-related projects, IDEAS Centre works on mainly two fronts:
- Support during the elaboration of the TPR, where IDEAS assist the country in: elaborating the Government Report; analysing, anticipating and answering to questions from WTO Members; supporting delegations during the TPR meeting in Geneva; etc.
- Assistance in the post-TPR phase, where IDEAS uses the report as an instrument to develop policies the country needs for a coherent and global trade policy approach.
The post-TPR phase is crucial as it seeks to improve the capacity of the recipient country to formulate, analyse and implement sound trade policies and programmes within the parameters of the TPR. It also ensures that the resulting trade-related technical assistance takes into account these policies and encompasses the views of all national stakeholders in the recipient country.