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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec15/18)
21 December 2015
Third World Network


Afghanistan, Liberia WTO membership approved at MC10
Published in SUNS #8160 dated 21 December 2015


Geneva, 18 Dec (Kanaga Raja) - The tenth Ministerial Conference (MC10) of the World Trade Organisation in Nairobi formally approved on Thursday the membership terms of Afghanistan to the organisation.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Conference had formally approved Liberia's WTO membership terms.

According to a news item on the WTO's website, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo and Afghanistan's First Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Khan Rahmani signed the Protocol of Accession at the end of a special ceremony.

Afghanistan will now have until 30 June 2016 to ratify the deal, and would become a full-fledged member of the WTO 30 days after it notifies the acceptance of its Protocol of Accession to the WTO Director-General.

According to the WTO, DG Azevedo paid special tribute to the government of Afghanistan for "this historic achievement" and for having undertaken an "extensive programme of domestic reforms to accelerate economic growth despite very challenging circumstances".

Azevedo said: "Afghanistan's WTO accession is a clear sign for all the world to see that the country is building a business-friendly environment. I am confident that WTO membership will contribute to establishing a firm foundation for Afghanistan's future development and prosperity."

Afghanistan's First Deputy Chief Executive Mr Rahmani said: "Today is a historic day for the people of Afghanistan who have embraced democratic values and market economy principles."

"Our WTO membership will cement our long-standing commitment to an open economy, transparency, rule of law, good governance, non-discrimination, and market instruments for the development of our economy and private sector, and for the alleviation of poverty."

Trade-led growth will create new economic opportunities and jobs, especially for women, it will reduce poverty, and increase prosperity, and it will certainly contribute in a major way to dramatically reduce extremism and achieve regional peace and security, he said.

Afghanistan had applied for WTO membership in 2004 and members of the Working Party concluded the negotiations on 11 November 2015.

According to information from the WTO Secretariat, in the area of goods, Afghanistan has undertaken tariff concessions and commitments that bind tariff rates for all products on average at 13.5 per cent.

For agricultural products, this average is 33.6 per cent while for non-agricultural products the average is 10.3 per cent.

Afghanistan's export tariffs will also be bound for 243 tariff lines. Of these, 29.6% are bound at 10%, 24.2% are bound at 2.5%.

On services, Afghanistan has made specific commitments in 11 services sectors, including 104 sub-sectors. These include telecommunications, insurance, banking and distribution.

Afghanistan has also committed to joining the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) upon accession.

It will eliminate its import prohibition on cotton seeds, table salt, powdered salt, gypsum, anhydride, and plasters, as well as eliminate all duties, taxes, fees and charges applied to exports which are not in conformity with Article VIII of the GATT 1994. The 2% fixed tax on exports will be eliminated prior to 1 January 2021.

Afghanistan will also bind agricultural export subsidies at zero.

On the TRIPS Agreement, full implementation will start no later than 1 January 2019, and Articles 3, 4 and 5 of the TRIPS Agreement will apply from the date of accession.

Earlier on Wednesday, MC10 formally approved Liberia's WTO membership terms, and the Protocol of Accession was signed by DG Azevedo and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the end of a special ceremony.

Liberia will now have until 15 June 2016 to ratify the membership deal and would become a full-fledged WTO member 30 days after it notifies the acceptance of its Protocol of Accession to the WTO Director-General.

Liberia had applied for WTO membership in 2007 and members of the Working Party concluded the negotiations on 6 October 2015.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta welcomed the formal approval by ministers of Liberia's WTO membership terms.

A WTO news item quoted the President as saying: "I am pleased that this decision was taken here in Nairobi, on African soil, at the WTO's Tenth Ministerial Conference. Without a doubt, WTO membership carries considerable gains and benefits. Liberia's Accession Package provides a platform for continuing domestic reforms and should inspire other African countries in their domestic measures."

President Sirleaf said: "Liberia's accession to the WTO marks another turning point in our history, particularly in our journey of economic transformation for inclusive growth. Our transformation can neither be done alone, nor in isolation, but by forging partnerships. We appreciate the collective efforts of our partners who have made this accession a resounding success. We fully subscribe to the African common position on strengthening the rules- based multilateral trading system to create the Africa that we want."

DG Azevedo said: "It is particularly appropriate that, at this first Ministerial Conference in Africa, we are welcoming a new African member. I hope that this achievement here today will help Liberia to continue on the path of hope, progress and development."

According to the WTO Secretariat, on goods, Liberia has undertaken tariff concessions and commitments that bind tariff rates for all products on average at 26.7 per cent.

For agricultural products, this average is 23.8 per cent while for non-agricultural products the average is 27.2 per cent.

Liberia has committed to bind tariff lines on ITA products at their currently applied rates, with a view to accession to the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) at a future date.

On services, Liberia has made specific commitments in 11 services sectors, including 102 sub-sectors. These include: telecommunications, legal services, banking, and medical and dental services.

Liberia will bind agricultural export subsidies at zero, and the surtax applied to imports of wheat flour will be eliminated by 1 July 2019.

 


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