a1 Oxford-Princeton Global Leaders Fellow, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
The Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM) has been an integral part of the GATT/WTO since 1989 and shoulders a fundamental responsibility in making the regime more transparent. This paper asks: how has the TPRM responded to demands from developing countries for information and transparency? The paper uses a typology of information systems to explain the evolution of surveillance in the trade regime and asks whether the TPRM was assigned the functions of an ideal-type information system. The paper, then, evaluates the performance of the TPRM against its given mandate of increasing transparency to promote improved adherence with trade rules. It presents, for the first time, empirical evidence on the content of reports and the participation of countries, to highlight persisting content- and participation-related challenges. It discusses the capacity challenges within the WTO Secretariat and briefly outlines efforts made by developing countries to boost surveillance capacity at home. The paper ends by outlining priorities for monitoring in the trade regime: generating specific information that developing countries need, supporting domestic capacity for surveillance (including from non-official sources), and concentrating on improved peer review and follow-up procedures.
Monitoring and surveillance is the rising agenda of the WTO.
I would like to thank trade delegates from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, the European Union, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Rep. of Korea, Lesotho, Mexico, Namibia, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Swaziland, Chinese Taipei, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, the United States, and Uruguay for sharing their insights on and experiences with the Trade Policy Review Mechanism and monitoring in the WTO more generally. Officials from the UNCTAD and WTO, and from ICTSD and ODI, London, also provided very useful insights. I thank Ngaire Woods for critical comments as this paper evolved, Carolyn Deere for stimulating discussions on the constraints facing poor countries in the WTO, and Richard Steinberg, John Odell and other participants at the 2008 International Studies Association Convention for useful feedback on some parts of this research. I also greatly benefited from my time as a researcher at the Trade Policies Review Division in the WTO during January–February 2008, which allowed me to observe the review process from close quarters. I gratefully acknowledge the Ford Foundation for financially supporting a large portion of the research for this paper. I appreciate generous financial support from the Oxford Department of Politics and International Relation's Alastair Buchan Subsidiary Fund and Balliol College's Domus Fund. Thanks are also due to two anonymous referees for helpful comments. Any errors or omissions are solely mine.