The Trade Policy Review Mechanism’s purpose is to improve transparency, to create a greater understanding of the policies that countries are adopting, and to assess their impact. Many members also see the reviews as constructive feedback on their policies. All WTO members must undergo periodic scrutiny, each review containing reports by the country concerned and the WTO Secretariat. Over 54 members have been reviewed since the WTO came into force.
DEVELOPMENT AND TRADE
Over three quarters of WTO members are developing or least-developed countries. Special provisions for these members are included in all the WTO agreements. They include longer time periods for implementing agreements and commitments, measures to increase trading opportunities for these countries, provisions requiring all WTO members to safeguard the trade interests of developing countries, and support to help developing countries build the infrastructure for WTO work, handle disputes, and implement technical standards. In 1997, a high-level meeting on trade initiatives and technical assistance for least-developed countries brought their concerns to centre stage. The meeting involved six intergovernmental agencies and resulted in an “integrated framework” to help least-developed countries increase their ability to trade, and some additional preferential market access agreements. A committee on trade and development, assisted by a sub- committee on least-developed countries, looks at developing countries’ special needs. Its responsibility includes implementation of the agreements, technical cooperation, and the increased participation of developing countries in the global trading system
TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE AND TRAINING
The WTO organizes around 100 technical cooperation missions to developing countries annually. It holds on average three trade policy courses each year in Geneva for government officials. Regional seminars are held regularly in all regions of the world with a special emphasis on African countries. Training courses are also organized in Geneva for officials from countries in transition from central planning to market economies. In 1997/98, the WTO set up reference centers in over 40 trade ministries in capitals of least-developed countries, providing computers and internet access to enable ministry officials to keep abreast of events in the WTO in Geneva through online access to the WTO’s immense database of official documents and other material.