This study examines how competition policy issues have been addressed in WTO Trade Policy Reviews over the past 20 years, focusing on types of trade measures and economic sectors that have consistently been prone to competition-related concerns from members.
At the World Trade Organization (WTO), despite there being no explicit multilateral trade agreement on competition policy, several agreements have included provisions on anti-competitive behaviours, such as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) agreements. In national policies, competition policy and laws are generally legislations of general application which apply to all economic sectors. They hence entertain complex interrelationships with a wide range of other public economic policies and measures, which may influence or be influenced by competition rules.
Covering the full range of trade-related policy measures adopted by all WTO members, WTO Trade Policy Reviews (TPRs) provide an ideal playground for examining such interrelationships, how they have evolved and the attention given to them by the WTO membership. The reviews also provide a valuable transparency mechanism covering members’ competition policies, an area in which predictability is paramount for market players to effectively engage in international trade.
Against this backdrop, the study examines how competition policy issues have been addressed in WTO Trade Policy Reviews over the past 20 years, focusing on types of trade measures and economic sectors that have consistently been prone to competition-related concerns from members.
The analysis focuses on a sample of 10 reviews covering five developed and developing countries: European Union (2002, 2020); United States (2003, 2016); Australia (2007, 2015); Singapore (2004, 2012); and China (2010, 2018). The analysis provides an insight into the number and type of competition-related questions asked by members since the start of this century.
It is found that, from 15 competition-related questions asked by members in 2002, their interest in raising such concerns followed an uptrend, culminating in 49 questions during the 2018 review of China. Besides chapters of the reviews dedicated explicitly to competition policy, related issues have made their way in discussions pertaining to other types of trade-related measures (e.g. intellectual property, state trading enterprises), as well as economic sectors where services such as telecommunications have attracted significant competition scrutiny.