Geneva - 2011

Other WTO Ministerials:
Geneva 30 Nov. - 2 Dec. 2009
Hong Kong 13–18 Dec 2005
> Cancún 10–14 Sept. 2003
> Doha 9–14 Nov. 2001
> Seattle 30 Nov.–3 Dec. 1999
> Geneva 18 & 20 May 1998
> Singapore 9–13 Dec. 1996

MINISTERIAL CONFERENCES

Briefing note: How the WTO accession process works?

The first step in the accession process takes place when the candidate country sends a request to the WTO to become a member.

The General Council then establishes a Working Party composed of WTO members. This group of countries, normally chaired by a Geneva-based ambassador from a WTO member, is the forum for the negotiations with the candidate country. Any WTO member can join the Working Party at any stage of the negotiation.

The Working Party studies the candidate country’s trade regime to examine whether it is compatible with WTO rules. In those areas where they are not in compliance the candidate country must amend its laws or adopt new ones to bring the trade policy in line with WTO rules. Importantly, the applicant must inscribe WTO rules into its national legal system.

In parallel to this process, the applicant negotiates bilaterally with Working Party members to open its market further to imports of goods and services. Once all the bilateral agreements are signed, the results will be compiled and combined into two documents: the goods and services schedules. At the time of accession, all tariffs and commitments on goods and services are offered on the same terms to all WTO Members under the principle of Most Favoured Nation.  

Once the candidate country amended its trade laws to meet WTO standards and has signed all its bilateral agreements, the working party is ready to adopt the accession package which contains 5 documents:

  • Working party report outlining all the reforms undertaken by the acceding country and its commitments
  • The goods schedule: list of bound and applied tariffs on industrial and agricultural goods
  • The services schedule: list of commitments in terms market opening in services
  • The Protocol of accession containing the terms it has negotiated to become a member, and which have been accepted by all other members of the WTO in the General Council or at a Ministerial Conference. The Protocol includes annexes for the commitments made by the new member for market access in goods and in services.
  • A decision taken by the General Council or the Ministerial Conference.

 

After the working party adopts the accession package, it is forwarded to the General Council or the Ministerial Conference for final adoption. The applicant becomes a member 30 days after the WTO is notified of ratification in the candidate country.

 

Recent accessions to the WTO

25 accessions have been completed since the WTO was established in 1995. The last countries that joined the WTO are:

  • Vietnam on 11 January 2007, Tonga on 27 July 2007, Ukraine on 16 May 2008 and Cape Verde on 23 July 2008.

 

Countries in line for future membership

  • Vanuatu — The General Council adopted the accession package 26 on October 2011. Vanuatu will have to ratify this package by 31 December 2011
  • Samoa — The working party adopted the accession package on 28 October 2011. The package has been forwarded to the 8th Ministerial Conference for adoption by ministers on 15-17 December 2011.
  • Russia — The working party adopted the accession package on 10 November 2011.
  • Montenegro — Last meeting of the Working Party took place on 5 December 2011.

 

Countries currently negotiating their WTO membership

The following 26 countries currently negotiate their WTO membership.

 

Country

Application date

Algeria

1987

Belarus

1993

Sudan

1994

Uzbekistan

1994

Seychelles

1995

Kazakhstan

1996

Azerbaijan

1997

Lao People’s Democratic Republic

1997

Andorra

1999

Lebanese Republic

1999

Bosnia Herzegovina

1999

Bhutan

1999

Yemen 

2000

Bahamas

2001

Tajikistan

2001

Syria (WP established on 4 May 2010)

2001

Ethiopia

2003

Libya

2004

Iraq

2004

Afghanistan

2004

Republic of Serbia

2004

Iran

2005

Sao Tomé and Principe

2005

Union of the Comoros

2007

Equatorial Guinea

2007

Republic of Liberia

2007

 

Accession process in brief…

    APPLICATION

    WORKING PARTY

    Negotiations on
    trade regime (multilateral)
    market access (bilateral)

    GENERAL COUNCIL OR MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE ADOPTS ACCESSION PACKAGE

    RATIFICATION OF ACCESSION PACKAGE BY ACCEDING COUNTRY

    membership after 30 days