Developing-country representatives gain knowledge to speed up WTO accession

27 June 2014
ITC News

Policymakers and members of the business community of developing countries now have a sharper understanding of World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements after a training programme by the International Trade Centre (ITC), aimed at accelerating their countries’ efforts to gain membership in the WTO.

Participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Liberia and Sudan attended training sessions from 12-16 May at ITC headquarters in Geneva. Topics included the practicalities of WTO accession; market access and tariff commitments; trade facilitation and pre-shipment inspection; WTO agreements in agriculture, sanitary and phytosanitary measures; the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement; technical barriers to trade and trade remedies; trade in services, the WTO dispute-settlement system; and regional integration.

Experts from different divisions of the WTO and ITC led the workshops, giving particular focus to the business implications of WTO agreements, rules and negotiation on least developed countries (LDCs). They also shared the experiences of acceded countries and discussed WTO commitments and policies, including favourable transition periods for LDCs.

‘I think the most helpful part has been trying to understand how the agreements fit into the Liberian context,’ said Candace B. Eastman, Deputy Minister of the Liberian Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI), who attended the week-long training. ‘Being able to sit in the classroom and have folks from the WTO there, who have worked on these agreements and can tell us about experiences from other countries, really helps us in terms of those things that we should be thinking about.’

MoCI partnered with ITC to launch Liberia’s National Export Strategy and National Trade Policy at the end of April. Ms. Eastman said the focus is now on understanding the agreements and packaging the country’s market-access negotiation strategy.

Sudan has already made its goods and services offers, having started the accession process in 1994.

‘The private sector is involved in Sudan’s WTO accession process, but with the 10-year gap in the active negotiation phase, they will need awareness raising,’ said Hiba El Fadil Mohamed Ahmed, Head of the Executive Office, National Secretariat for WTO Affairs, Ministry of Trade. ‘I will disseminate the information from the workshop to the relevant stakeholders in the private sector in Sudan.’

‘We covered a lot of ground in a limited time,’ said Tamiru Woubbie, Advocacy Specialist, Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (ECCSA). ‘I will use the information provided during the sessions in the Chamber’s newsletter to reach our stakeholders.’

Public-sector participants had the opportunity to meet the WTO Secretariat representative from the accessions unit on the last day of the training to ask country-specific questions.