Buried in the Protocol of Accession is the Transitional Review Mechanism (TRM). The debate that took place over its creation seldom if ever became noticeably public. It was in contemporary parlance a debate that took place “below the radar screen.” Yet significant consequences may well follow as a result of the debate and now the creation of such a multilateral monitoring system found in the Protocol of Accession. The debate and final structure reflect the ambivalence of all sides regarding China's entry into the WTO. Fundamental questions over constraints to national sovereignty, the inclusion of China in the multilateral trading regime, the level of marketization for member countries and the oversight by member countries with obligations agreed to by entering countries were raised and ultimately resolved. The TRM reveals how current member countries see the organization of the world economy.
In the end the member countries of the WTO (Members) put a TRM in place that reflects a multilateral trading system that is still more reflective of the system before the Uruguay Round as opposed to after. The consequences of the failure to match the oversight and review to changes required of a China in transition to a more market-driven economy will be known only in the medium term. The guessing in the short term is that this TRM will be unable to maintain the drive for reform in China or encourage China to meet its obligations under the Protocol of Accession. If so, then the multilateral system's monitoring limitations may well encourage Members to re-establish oversight and monitoring in national capitals, including Washington, DC. 1 Such a reversion would be unwelcome in many quarters and would signal a weakening of the multilateral trading system. 2
The debate over how China could, or could not, meet its WTO obligations took place in universities, think tanks, national capitals and in the permanent missions of WTO Members in Geneva. It formed a backdrop to this longest protocol of accession negotiation. The issues raised formed critical concerns for the GATT Contracting Parties (CPs) (then member countries or Members), the organization of