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Kazakhstan's WTO membership likely soon

12 June 2015 [11:16] - TODAY.AZ

/By AzerNews/

By Aynur Karimova

Kazakhstan has attained a historic achievement after 20 years of negotiations with the World Trade Organization. The country finalized one of the most challenging negotiations with the WTO on the terms of the country's membership at this organization on June 10.

The negotiations were held with the organization's members at the Working Party meeting, WTO said.

“I congratulate WTO members and the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the historic step taken today to conclude the accession negotiations of Kazakhstan and finalize its WTO Accession Package. I look forward to welcoming Kazakhstan to the WTO,” Roberto Azevêdo, WTO Director-General said.

Members of the Working Party welcomed the conclusion of "one of the most challenging negotiations" in the 20-year history of the organization, and congratulated Kazakhstan for a “historic achievement” after 20 years of negotiations.

Kazakhstan, the largest economy in the Central Asian region, first submitted its application for the WTO membership in 1996. The country previously attempted to conclude its WTO negotiations in 2013, but accession talks failed. Again in 2014 efforts were thwarted after WTO representatives explained that Kazakhstan would have to resolve discrepancies between Kazakhstan's bilateral market access agreements with WTO members.

The Kazakh foreign ministry recently expressed hope that its WTO membership will be completed this year.

"This is a balancer of our global economic relations. Through the WTO, we will get access to an extensive global trading system, to its standards, rules and regulations. These same rules and regulations will apply to Kazakhstan in its trade with other countries. So, for us the WTO is a signifier of growth, which we are consistently working towards," Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov has said.

Membership would facilitate Kazakhstan’s trade with more than 160 other WTO member countries. It is also expected to generate accelerated economic growth by opening up Kazakhstan to foreign investors. Such an opportunity would be most welcome as the country is currently experiencing a great economic hardship due to the dramatic fall in global oil prices. On the other hand, Kazakhstan was affected by Russia's economic slump.

Kazakhstan's geographic location also paves the way for the country's membership at this trade organization. Located in the heart of the Eurasian continent, Kazakhstan could serve as a transit route from East to West and from South to North. The country has been developing its railways and roads in recent years with an aim to become a center along major trade routes.

However, the WTO experts claim that the complexity and uniqueness of Kazakhstan’s accession lies in the negotiations on tariff adjustment due to the country’s membership at the Eurasian Economic Union consisting of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Therefore, Kazakhstan's membership at the Customs Union that it formed in 2010 with Russia and Belarus is one of the stumbling blocks in its way to the WTO. Kazakhstan's WTO accession bid was slowed down when it joined the Customs Union, which was a first step in forming the Eurasian Economic Union. It led to a rise in some trade tariffs vis-à-vis other third parties, thus requiring new discussions about the conditions of its WTO entry.

However, Kazakh foreign minister believes that EEU membership doesn’t prevent the country from joining other projects.

"The Eurasian Union does not mean that we are limiting ourselves only to this project. We are working in different directions, as evidenced by the successful completion of negotiations last year with the European Union to enhance partnership and cooperation and on Kazakhstan's accession into the WTO. We hope that both processes will be completed this year,” Idrisov said.

Kazakhstan is still waiting to see its membership approved. Despite two decades of renewed efforts, Astana hasn’t given up on the idea of becoming a WTO member.

Members of the Working Party will meet on June 22 to formally adopt the draft Accession Package ad referendum. Kazakhstan’s Accession Package, spelling out terms of the country’s WTO membership, will be forwarded to the General Council for formal adoption by all 161 WTO members.

The package contains the draft report of the Working Party outlining the country's reformed trade regime and its commitments as a WTO member, the draft Schedule of Concessions and Commitments on Goods and the draft Schedule of Specific Commitments on Trade in Services.

All one can do is only to wait...


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