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The Working Party for the accession of the Kingdom of Bhutan to the
WTO held its second meeting on Thursday October 6,2005 with a review of the
state of play in the bilateral market access negotiations, a review of
legislative developments and the continued examination of the Foreign Trade
Regimes as supplied by the authorities.
Bhutan has now developed its initial offers in goods and services and has
provided detailed action plans in respect of areas where they need
transitional periods to comply with WTO rules. The chairman of the Working
Party, ambassador Wolgang Petritsch, of Austria, expressed his hope to
members that in their negotiations they will keep in mind “Bhutan's special
situation as a land-locked, least developed country.”
As an LDC, Bhutan will benefit from guidelines for market access
negotiations approved by the General Council in December 2002 for
Least-Developed Countries. This guidelines provides for LDC's to undertake
commitments and concessions commensurate with their individual development,
financial and trade situation and for members no to refrain form making
excessive demands on acceding candidates.
The head of Bhutan's delegation was the minister of Trade and Industry,
Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba. In his intervention the minister explained that the
government has identified four major pillars to guide the country's economic
development: economic growth and development, preservation and promotion of
cultural heritage, environmental conservation and good governance. The
minister also said that “in an increasingly interdependent world, Bhutan
must create an open and liberal environment for private sector promotion,
export growth and integrate into the regional and multilateral trading
system”. He also said that “at the same time we have to ensure that the
pursuit of economic development and globalization does not adversely affect
our fragile mountain environment and degrade the rich culture and heritage”.
He also urged members to take this into consideration.
The GDP of Bhutan grew 8,7% in 2004 with an inflation rate of 3,9% although
the country has experienced persistently large trade deficits that amounted
to US$87.3 million or 14% of GDP in 2003/2004. Bhutan's trade is heavily
concentrated in a narrow range of commodities and with few countries. India
takes 96% of the country's exports and is a source of almost 90% of the
Bhutan submitted its application for membership in 1999 and the fists
meeting of the Working Party was in November 2004.