GENEVA, Switzerland—The international body that oversees global trade has launched a publicly-accessible trade monitoring database in a bid to increase transparency.
The World Trade Organization unveiled its trade monitoring database May 3, a hub which provides detailed information on trade measures and policies implemented by member nations dating back to October 2008.
According to Willy Alfaro, the WTO’s trade policies review senior counsellor, the database was launched to increase both ease of access to the organization’s trade monitoring reports and transparency for member nations and the general public.
“We prepare regular (trade) monitoring reports in which we collect information on trade and trade-related measures implemented by our members and observers over a given period of time,” Alfaro said on the phone from the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
“This is an exercise we started due to the global crisis,” he said of the global recession that kicked off in late 2007.
None of the measurable information is new, according to Alfaro, as the WTO has long been collecting data on trade, from measures to barriers and policies.
“We were collecting all of this very detailed information and we were keeping it on our desks,” he said with a laugh.
“The only (new) thing is that we put it in this searchable interface.”
The main purpose of the trade monitoring exercise is to enhance transparency, Alfaro said, and the new database is simply an expansion of the scope of that transparency, offering a free, simple-to-use interface that allows users to view trade measures and policies by country, region or keyword.
“What we’re hoping to (do) is provide … new tools so that this trade information is accessible to everybody,” he said.
For member countries, the benefit of the database is simple.
“Members will be able to very quickly have a list of all measures that may be affecting them,” Alfaro said. “Instead of having to (compile) research, they can go to this database, put the name of the country as the affected one and they will know all the measures that are being put on them.”
The benefit for members of the public—and in particular the academic community—is ease of access to data used for economic analysis, Alfaro said, particularly in today’s fragile post-global recession economy.
“(If) they want to (explore) the trends in export restrictions, they will be able to use this (and) extract the information,” he said.