Competition Policy WTO (Negotiations, Regular Work, Leadership)

When Trade Meets Competition Policy: Insights from WTO Trade Policy Reviews

This briefing paper highlights the main findings from a study examining how competition policy issues have been addressed in WTO Trade Policy Reviews. It is found that certain types of trade policy measures and economic sectors have piqued members’ interest for their relationship with competition policy. In particular, analysis of questions raised by members show the high relevance of competition issues in the areas of intellectual property, state trading and state-owned enterprises, as well as services such as transport and telecommunications.

Competition policy and laws are typically legislations of general application, which apply to all economic sectors. As a result, they engage in complex interrelationships with a broad range of other public economic policies and measures that may impact or be influenced by competition laws.

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.

In a recent study, Grollier and Hirani (2021) examined 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. This briefing paper summarises the main findings of the study.

The analysis focused 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.