The trade policies and practices of all World Trade Organization (WTO) Members are reviewed regularly, under the auspices of the WTO Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM). The TPRM was provisionally established at the Montreal Mid-Term Review of the Round in December 1988. Article III of the Marrakesh Agreement, agreed by Ministers in April 1994, placed the TPRM on a permanent footing as one of the WTO's basic functions and, with the entry into force of the WTO in 1995, the mandate of the TPRM was broadened to cover services trade and intellectual property.
The objective of the TPRM is to contribute to improved adherence by all Members to WTO rules, disciplines and commitments. The TPRM promotes transparency in trade policy making. It provides a forum for Members to openly discuss and provide objective analysis of each other's trade policies and practices. Reviews take into account the Member's wider economic and developmental needs, policies and objectives as well as the external trading environment. They are not intended to serve as a basis for the enforcement of WTO obligations, for WTO dispute settlement procedures, or to impose new trade policy commitments.
The frequency of the reviews depends on the Member's share in world trade. The four largest traders (the European Union, the United States, China and Japan) are reviewed every two years; the next 16 largest traders (including Australia) every four years; and the remaining Members every six years, with a longer interval for least-developed countries.
The review process includes:
- a detailed report on the Member under review's trade policies and practices prepared by the WTO Secretariat;
- a report by the government of the Member under review;
- a written question and answer process, whereby the Member under review must respond to detailed questions from other Members regarding its trade policies and practices; and
- a formal meeting in Geneva of the WTO Trade Policy Review Body (TPRB).
All review documents, including minutes of the meeting, questions and answers by Members and review reports (both by the Member under review and the Secretariat), are made available on the WTO website shortly after the formal meeting of the TPRB (refer TPRM link below).