Saturday, July 7, 2012

Afghanistan and WTO Accession

Accession to the WTO is a long drawn process. Russia's accession took almost two decades. The WTO website had this update on Afghanistan's accession. By other countries standards the accession process started recently - 2004.

While reviewing Afghanistan's progress the Working party observed:
"Members examined Afghanistan’s trade regime, its trade-related reforms and assessed their conformity with WTO rules. They requested more information on Afghanistan’s trade-related legislation regarding state trading enterprises, privatisation, pricing policies, import licensing, customs valuation, export regulations, export subsidies, agricultural policy, intellectual property, technical barriers to trade and transparency."
It looks like Afghanistan has a long way to go before it is accepted in the multilateral body. Reform of local laws as well as increased transparency would be required to fulfil conditions of accession. Can membership in the WTO and increased trade and investment bring hope to the war torn country? An analysis of the pros and cons of accession for Afghanistan is provided here by a document signifying that Afghanistan can leverage its membership to further its developmental goals. Afghanistan also has a department of WTO in its Ministry of Commerce to deal with accession and WTO issues.

As per the Ministry of Commerce website of the Government of Afghanistan, the benefits of entry to the WTO have been listed:
"Accession to the WTO will help consolidate commercial and economic reform and the rule of law in Afghanistan. The WTO membership offers a range of benefits. Enjoying these benefits is, pragmatically, the goal of joining the WTO. By acceding to the WTO Afghanistan pursues the following goals:
  • Improvement of existing conditions for access of Afghanistan’s products to foreign markets and provision of non-discriminatory treatment for Afghan exporters;
  • Access to the international dispute settlement mechanism;
  • Creation of a more favorable climate for foreign investments as a result of legal system change in accordance with the WTO standards;
  • Expansion of opportunities for Afghan investors in the WTO member-countries
  • Creation of conditions for growth of domestic production, quality and competitiveness as a result of increased flows of foreign goods, services and investments to the Afghanistan’s market;
  • Participation in negotiations of the international trade agreements taking into account national interests
  • Improvement of the image of Afghanistan as a competent international trade participant.

The objective of the accession negotiations is to achieve the most favorable conditions for Afghanistan joining the WTO, i.e., the best balance possible between the benefits of accession and the concessions in forms of tariffs reduction and domestic market opening. The balance of rights and obligations of Afghanistan during its accession to the WTO should contribute to its economic growth and fair trade - not vice versa."
Another example of how international trade could benefit peace and security? 


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