The WTO works to ensure transparency of regulations and policies of members. Governments have to inform the WTO and fellow-members of specific measures, policies or laws through regular “notifications”; and the WTO conducts regular reviews of individual countries’ trade policies — the trade policy reviews. Since the creation of the WTO in 1995, the scope was extended to include services and intellectual property.
Over a period of time, all WTO members are to come under scrutiny. The frequency of the reviews depends on the country’s size:
- The four biggest traders — the European Union, the United States, Japan and China (the “Quad”) — are examined approximately once every two years.
- The next 16 countries (in terms of their share of world trade) are reviewed every four years.
- The remaining countries are reviewed every six years, with the possibility of a longer interim period for the least-developed countries.
For each review, two documents are prepared: a policy statement by the government under review, and a detailed report written independently by the WTO Secretariat. These two reports, together with the proceedings of the Trade Policy Review Body’s meetings are published shortly afterwards.