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WTO director-general hopes Kazakhstan joins trade body by December

July 27, 2015, 20:15 UTC+3 GENEVA
President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and Roberto Azevedo signed a protocol on the country’s accession to the organization at a session of the WTO’s General Council
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President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and Roberto Azevedo

President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and Roberto Azevedo


GENEVA, July 27. /TASS/. Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Roberto Azevedo expressed hope that Kazakhstan will take part in the 10th Ministerial Conference, which will be held by the trade body in Nairobi /Kenya/ from 15 to 18 December 2015, as its member-state, he said at a press conference after the ceremony of signing a protocol on Kazakhstan’s accession to the organization on Monday.

"Hopefully we will be able to confirm Kazakhstan’s membership at the conference in Nairobi as it will become the 162nd member of the organization. Unless it happens earlier," he said.

President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and Roberto Azevedo signed a protocol on the country’s accession to the organization at a session of the WTO’s General Council, the organization’s highest-level decision-making body in Geneva on Monday. Nazarbayev said the Kazakh economy has seen major structural changes since talks on its accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) began almost 20 years ago. The Kazakh economy "has become stronger and more open" since negotiations began, he said. WTO member countries at the present account for more than 90% of the country's foreign trade. "In the mid-1990s, Kazakhstan had ties only with post-Soviet states, while now we are trading with 185 countries of the world," President added. Countries of the European Union are its main economic partners, accounting for more than 54% of Kazakhstan’s foreign trade, he said, noting also a "sizable contribution" of trade with Russia, China, the United States, Canada and some other countries.

The next step will be ratification of the protocol signed on Monday in Kazakhstan, which is expected to be finished by October 31. The decision on Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO will come into force automatically after 30 days pass from the moment when the trade organization receives ratification confirmation.

Post-Soviet states joining WTO

The World Trade Organization (WTO) was created in 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Currently 22 states are in negotiations or awaiting membership. There are 4 ex-Soviet states among them — Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

According to the terms of accession, a new member is accepted with the unanimous consent of all the member-states (currently 161 countries). Joining the organization, the countries expect to receive untrammeled access to the foreign markets, but in the course of negotiations also try to maintain protectionist measures as much as possible in order to protect its own producers from the foreign dumping. That is why the WTO membership negotiations may last from 2−3 years to several decades. For example, China was trying to joining the organization for about 15 years; Algeria is in negotiations since 1987.


Kyrgyzstan became the first post-Soviet state that joined the WTO. The country submitted an application on February 13, 1996. The membership negotiations process was one of the quickest in the organization’s history — at the time Kyrgyzstan did not have a developed processing industry that would have needed protection, and could set low customs tariffs. On October 14, 1998 the WTO General Council approved the country’s accession to the WTO, and on November 17 the membership memorandum was approved by the Parliament. On December 20, 1998, Kyrgyzstan became the 133th member of the Organization. Thus, the accession process took 2 years, 10 months and 7 days.


In 1993 Latvia submitted its application to join the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In the course of negotiations Latvia abandoned existing high import duties, including agricultural production. On October 14, 1998, the WTO General Council approved the country’s accession to the WTO together with Kyrgyzstan. After the Latvian Saeima (the country’s parliament) ratified the decision on February 10, 1999, the country became the 134th member of the organization. The accession process took more than 5 years and 8 months.


Georgia submitted its application to join the WTO on July 3, 1996. The negotiations were in progress until 1999, when on October 6 the application was approved by the WTO General Council. The negotiations process was fast; the member-countries had no serious objections. After the Georgian parliament ratified the memorandum on joining the organization in April, Georgia became the 137th member of the WTO. The process took 3 years, 11 months and 11 days.


The last Baltic state to join the WTO was Lithuania. The country submitted the application in February 1994. The negotiations were in progress for more than 6 years due to Lithuania’s uncompromising attitude towards agribusiness subsidies and limiting the agriculture production export. The WTP General Council approved Lithuania’s accession on December 8, 1999. The Lithuanian Seimas (the Parliament) ratified joining the WTO on April 26. On May 31, 2000, Lithuania became the 141th member of the organization. The process took 6 years and 4 months.


Moldova announced its intention to join the GATT in 1993. The negotiations were difficult, since the Moldovan business community was against joining the WTO, in particular it demanded maintaining high subsidies for agriculture. The WTO General Council approved the country's accession on May 8, 2001. On June 1, 2001, the Moldovan Parliament ratified the protocol on accession. July 26, 2001, the country became the 142nd member of the WTO after 8 years of negotiations.


Armenia applied to join the GATT in 1993. The active negotiation process began in 1996. The zero rate of value added tax (VAT) on agricultural production was the main contentious issue. Armenia agreed to impose the tax in 2009, replacing the support measures for subsidies. Armenia also did not agree to open a telecommunications market for foreign companies for a long time — in the end the WTO requirement was satisfied. On December 10, 2002, the WTO General Council approved the accession of Armenia, the country’s parliament voted for joining the organization on February 5, 2003. The accession process took 10 years.


Ukraine negotiated accession to the GATT and then the WTO since 1993. The negotiations lasted 15 years: the country wanted to preserve the anti-dumping duties on imports of agricultural and mechanical engineering. At the same time, the negotiating members, in particular the European Union, demanded to significantly reduce it, or cancel. The WTO General Council approved Ukraine's accession to the WTO on February 5, 2008. The protocol of accession to the organization has been ratified by the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) on April 10. On May 16, 2008 the country became the 152nd member of the WTO.


Russia also submitted the application for joining the GATT in 1993. Negotiations with the US and the European Union were the most difficult. In particular, the United States struggled to solve the problems with American pork accessing the Russian market and with protecting the intellectual property; the European Union — the issues with the export duties on lumber, and on the conditions of industrial assembly of cars in Russia. Georgia was the last county to negotiate with Russia. Georgia insisted on admitting its representatives to monitor trading on Russia's border with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The protocol on Russia's accession to the WTO was signed on December 16, 2011, at the Ministerial Conference of the organization in Geneva. An agreement on accession to the WTO was ratified by the Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 21, 2012. Russia became the 156th member country of the WTO after 18 years of negotiations.


Tajikistan applied to join the WTO on May 29, 2001. The country's main issues were connected with the export tax on cotton, as well as large amounts of state support for agriculture. After Tajikistan met the requirements of other partner countries, on December 10, 2012, the WTO General Council agreed to accept the country in the organization. The country’s parliament ratified the membership on January 9, 2013 and on March 2, 2013 Tajikistan became the 159th member of the WTO after 11 years, 9 months and 1 day of negotiations.


After 19.5 years of negotiations, Kazakhstan should soon become a member of the WTO. The application was submitted on January 29, 1996. The duration of the negotiation process was first due to the disagreements on duty rates, and then due to the need for tariff negotiations related to Kazakhstan's membership in the Eurasian Economic Union. The country is expected to join the WTO before the end of 2015.


Belarus has been in talks on accession to the WTO since September of 1993, Uzbekistan — since December of 1994, Azerbaijan since June 30, 1997. The President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov announced the need to begin the process of accession to the WTO, but there has yet to be a formal request for membership in the organization.

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