WTO Reform – Improving Transparency and Notifications in the WTO

Some initiatives in the ongoing debate on improving transparency and notifications as a part of talks on WTO reform seem to have been based on the false belief that compliance with notification requirements could be induced through threat of punitive action. Arguments made during discussions on the issue seem to have convinced the WTO membership that defaults in meeting the deadlines for notifications arise less from wilful neglect and more from the challenging complexity of the format of notifications and lack of capacity and paucity of resources in many developing countries. Even so, the assessment made by the author is that the compliance performance of the top 50 or so trading nations is reasonably satisfactory. It is mainly the LDCs, island developing countries and other developing countries with limited administrative infrastructure that have fallen short. The solution lies in simplifying the formats for the benefit of all members and lowering the bar on frequency of notifications for LDC members and other members with small economies and limited administrative infrastructure.