The Working Party on Vanuatu’s accession, which reconvened in April 2011, adopted, ad referendum, Vanuatu’s accession package which contains the reforms to Vanuatu’s trade regime, the market access schedules on goods and services, the draft General Council Decision and the draft Protocol of Accession.
Members said Vanuatu had negotiated a high quality accession package which was ready for adoption. Members acknowledged the hard work undertaken by Vanuatu throughout its membership negotiations.
WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said: “Vanuatu’s accession to the WTO is a sign of confidence in the organization and the multilateral trading system. WTO membership will enable Vanuatu, a least-developed country, to participate more fully in the global economy and will provide the country with a predictable and stable basis for growth and development. For the WTO, Vanuatu’s accession brings us one step closer to our goal of universal membership”.
Vanuatu’s Trade Minister Sela Molisa said that his country played its part and asked WTO members to open the doors of membership. He believed Vanuatu offered WTO members a high quality accession package that any government can offer, whether LDC or not. He added that trade opening properly sequenced, within the framework of the rules-based multilateral trading system, provided a necessary condition and an impetus for modernisation, integration into the global economy and rapid growth.
Background on Vanuatu's accession process
Vanuatu applied to WTO membership on 7 July 1995.
The Working Party adopted the accession package in October 2001 but Vanuatu requested more time to consider its accession terms.
In 2008, Vanuatu indicated its interest to resume and conclude its WTO accession. Vanuatu’s accession package was technically updated to take into account new developments in its trade regime.
On 4 April 2011, the Working Party on Vanuatu’s accession was reconvened informally to discuss and finalise Vanuatu's WTO membership.
Information about Vanuatu’s commitments
As a result of the negotiations, Vanuatu has agreed to undertake a series of important commitments to further liberalize its trade regime and accelerate its integration in the world economy, while offering a transparent and predictable environment for trade and foreign investment.
Vanuatu committed that from the date of accession, it will fully apply all WTO provisions and did not require to recourse to any transitional period except on intellectual property and on the publication of trade information.
Vanuatu would apply the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights by 1 December 2012.
On the publication of trade information, Vanuatu intended to create an official journal or web-site available to WTO Members, individuals and enterprises where all regulations related to trade would be published. Vanuatu would also provide members a reasonable period (30 days) to send their comments on such regulations before they are implemented. Vanuatu would implement this facility within four years of the accession date.
Vanuatu did not carry out preshipment inspection of imports and had no plans to do so.
Vanuatu would not apply any anti-dumping, countervailing or safeguard measures until it had implemented appropriate laws in conformity with WTO Agreements.
Vanuatu requested technical assistance from the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) to build capacity and ensure conformity with the OIE standards.
Vanuatu did not intend to be part of the Government Procurement Agreement at this stage.
Upon entry into force of the Protocol of Accession, Vanuatu would submit all notifications required by any Agreement.
Market access for goods
Vanuatu will apply an average final bound rate of 39.7% (43.6% for agricultural products and 39.1% for industrial products). All Vanuatu's tariffs are bound and 85% of tariff lines are either at 35% or 40%.
For 98 tariff lines related to products such as wines, spirits, beer, turbo propellers, tobacco, turbo jets, chemicals, cell phones, radios and televisions, Vanuatu will phase its tariff reductions in over a period of up to 2015.
Agriculture plays a dominant role in Vanuatu's economy. The main crops are copra, coffee, kava and cocoa. Beef production has also become increasingly important. Vanuatu offers incentives to agricultural producers such as special low rate loans or exemptions granted by the customs and tax authorities.
Vanuatu also applies aid-financed programmes of domestic support for agriculture. Vanuatu qualifies for the 10% “de minimis” level of domestic support available for developing countries.
Market access for services
Vanuatu has made specific commitments on 10 services sectors and on 72 sub-sectors such as accounting, architectural services, engineering, telecommunications, audio-visual, hospital and social services, tourism and travel, air transport.
The services sector has been growing and now accounts for three quarters of Vanuatu’s GDP. It accounts for over 75% of Vanuatu’s economic activities. Main areas of growth have been wholesale, retail, finance, insurance tourism and construction.
Vanuatu liberalised its business environment with few restrictions on investment to mainly promote small local businesses.
On fixed-line telephony, a monopoly continues to exist but would not be extended beyond 31 December 2011.
General information about Vanuatu(source: World Bank - 2009)
Income level: Lower middle income
GDP (current US$): $647,951,291
External debt stocks (% of GNI): 20.7%
Merchandise trade (% of GDP): 54.3%
GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$): $2,620
“Ease of Doing Business” rank (out of 183 economies): 60 (2011)
CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita): 0.4 (2007)
Population, total: 239,788
Life expectancy at birth: 71 years
Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above): 82%
Vanuatu’s accession package will be adopted by a special session of the General Council in May 2011.
Following this adoption, Vanuatu will have 6 months to ratify its accession package.
30 days after the ratification date, Vanuatu will become a full-fledged Member.