> Nepal’s accesion
Nepal still has to ratify the agreed terms and inform the WTO. Thirty
days after that it will become a member. When these steps are complete,
Nepal and Cambodia will bring the WTO’s membership to 148. Nepal applied
to join the WTO in May 1989. The working party to negotiate the terms of
accession was established in June and after three formal meetings
completed its mandate on 15 August 2003.
“The completion of Nepal’s accession negotiations is most welcome. Not
only does it expand the number of total WTO members, it also increases
the diversity and depth of the WTO community of members”, said WTO’s
Director-General, Supachai Panitchpakdi, commenting on the approval of
“All accessions, whether big or small, are about creating equal
opportunities for growth and prosperity. Accession and membership of the
WTO are, fundamentally, about commitment to improvement of the standards
of living of the citizens, both economically and physically. Indeed that
is the theme of this Ministerial Conference and the Doha Development
Agenda”, said Dr Supachai.
After the approval of Nepal’s accession, the head of the Nepalese
delegation, Hari Bahadur Basnet, Minister of Industry, Commerce and
Supplies, said: “It is our conviction that joining this organisation
would not only enhance our effectiveness and efficiency in trading
capacity but would also result in the expansion of trade, leading to a
higher level of growth and enhancement of quality of life of our
Under the chairmanship of Ambassador Pierre-Louis Girard of Switzerland,
the WTO Accession Working Party concluded, on 15 August 2003, 14 years
of negotiations with Nepal and agreed to forward several hundred pages
of legal texts for formal acceptance by the 146 member governments of
the WTO. The documents adopted today by the Ministerial Conference are
the report of the Working Party for the Accession of Nepal, the protocol
of accession, which includes the terms of membership, and the schedules
of Nepal’s commitments on market access for goods and services.
Nepal has a population of 23 million and a per capita income of US$240.
Agriculture is the main source of income and employment, and accounts
for 41% of GDP and more than 80% of employment. Tourism is one of the
most import services sectors and contributes about 12% of the total
foreign exchange and 3.8% of GDP. Nepal has been increasingly developing
hydroelectric energy resources. India is the most important trading
partner of Nepal.
According to the latest WTO data, Nepal's merchandise exports were
US$645 million in 2002, and its imports were US$1.4 billion. From 1990
to 2000 Nepal experienced an annual percentage export growth of 15
percent, but there was a 13 percent decrease in 2002. Imports grew at an
annual percentage rate of 9 percent between 1990 and 2000 and decreased
5 percent in 2002.
The importance of membership
During the negotiations, Nepal said that notwithstanding a difficult
economic and political environment Nepal had sought to systematically
reform and open its economy. The Government had liberalized the economy
unilaterally over the years because of the conviction that economic
reform and trade liberalization would attract investments, promote
development and, contribute to generate productive employment and
alleviate poverty, in a general framework of equity, participation and
Members of the WTO expressed the view that WTO membership would be
important for Nepal’s development and integration into the world trading
system and would also constitute a major step forward in the WTO
evolution to achieving the goal of universality and representation of
the interests of all trading nations.
Some of the commitments
By joining the WTO, Nepal can now fully enjoy the rights that all
members have under the WTO agreements, such as non-discrimination by
other WTO members and the ability to use the WTO’s dispute settlement
In return for those rights, like all WTO members, Nepal has accepted
some obligations under the WTO agreements. Details of how Nepal is to
apply or phase-in these obligations are spelt out in the membership
agreement which consists of a report from the working party that
negotiated the deal, and schedules or lists of commitments on import
duties for goods and market access for service providers.
These are some highlights of the working party report, which was adopted
on 15 August:
As a result of the negotiation, Nepal agreed broad commitments in
11 services sectors, revealing its clear belief in the benefits of
liberalisation as an engine for future growth and prosperity.
Nepal accepted an average tariff binding of 42% in agricultural products
and around 24% in industrial goods. The majority of the import items
fall in the customs duty range of 10–20%. The maximum tariff rate of
130% applied to cars and jeeps will be reduced as specified in the goods
schedule. A minimum tariff rate up to 5% applied for daily consumption
LEGISLATIVE PLAN OF ACTION
Legislation on the valuation of imports for customs and taxation
purposes conforming to the requirements of the Agreement on Customs
Valuation would be enacted by 1 July 2004. Nepal would progressively
implement the Agreement on Customs Valuation in accordance with the
action plan and full implementation will start from 1 January 2007.
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
Nepal will implement fully the provisions of the Agreement on Sanitary
and Phytosanitary Measures by 1 January 2007 following an action plan in
different stages which started with the adoption of the Food Act and the
implementation of Codex Alimentarius, and will continue with the
establishment and operation of a single enquiry point.
Technical Barriers to Trade
Nepal will progressively implement the Agreement on Technical Barriers
to Trade in accordance with the Action Plan submitted during the
negotiations and would implement fully the provisions of the Agreement
on Technical Barriers to Trade by 1 January 2007.
Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights
As a least-developed country, Nepal is preparing the new Industrial
Property (Protection) Act, which would incorporate all the substantive
provisions of the TRIPS Agreement. It would cover all categories of
industrial property and would incorporate the basis for an adequate
enforcement and be promulgated no later than 1 January 2006.
H.E. Mr. Hari Bahadur Basnet, Minister of Industry,
Commerce and Supplies of Nepal and WTO Director-General Supachai
Panitchpakdi at the signing ceremony for the protocol of accession of
Nepal to the WTO
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