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WTO NEWS: 2003 NEWS ITEMS

20 February 2003
Dr. Supachai welcomes start of WTO work on Bhutan's accession

Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, on 18 February 2003, welcomed the start of serious work on the accession of Bhutan with the delivery of the country's Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime to the WTO. He said that this development signalled Bhutan's keen interest in commencing its accession process.

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He said that the submission of this document — which would be the basis of discussions in the accession working party — was the result of meticulous efforts by the Government of Bhutan backed up by timely and focussed technical assistance.

The Director-General noted that activation of Bhutan's accession was strongly supported by all WTO Members and that they and the Secretariat stood ready to provide all possible technical assistance to the Kingdom of Bhutan. He expected that the first meeting of the Working Party would be held prior to the Cancún Ministerial Conference.

Dr. Supachai said that the General Council's decision last December to facilitate the entry of least developed countries into the WTO has given new impetus to advancing or concluding LDC negotiations before the Cancún Ministerial.

The WTO Working Party on Accession for the Kingdom of Bhutan was established on 6 October 1999. Since then work has been underway in the capital, Thimpu, on preparing the documentation required to activate the negotiating process in Geneva.

On 17 February 2003 the representative of the Kingdom of Bhutan to the WTO delivered the Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime. The Memorandum updates a draft document scrutinized by technical experts in the Secretariat early in 2002. The document describes all aspects of Bhutan's economy and legal system and its compliance with WTO norms and requirements.