WTO: 2014 NEWS ITEMS

ACCESSIONS: SEYCHELLES


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THIS NEWS STORY is designed to help the public understand developments in the WTO. While every effort has been made to ensure the contents are accurate, it does not prejudice member governments’ positions.

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> Opening remarks by H.E. Pierre Laporte

> Closing remarks by H.E. Pierre Laporte

Key Facts

Application received: 8 May 1995

Last member to join the WTO: Yemen

Working party

Chairperson: Ms Hilda Ali Al-Hinai (Oman)

Members: Argentina; Australia; Barbados; Brazil; Canada; China; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Egypt; El Salvador; European Union; Ghana; Haiti; Honduras; India; Jamaica; Japan; Kenya; Korea, Republic of; Kyrgyz Republic; Lesotho; Madagascar; Malaysia; Mauritius; Morocco; Mozambique; Nigeria; Oman; Panama; Rwanda; Saint Lucia; Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of; Senegal; Solomon Islands; South Africa; Switzerland; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; Uganda; Ukraine; United States of America; Viet Nam; Yemen; and Zimbabwe.

Established: 11 July 1995

Meetings (seven): 20 February 1997; 22 November 2010; 10 July 2012; 21 June 2013; 15 November 2013; 3 July 2014; 17 October 2014

Secretariat

Secretary: Ms Petra Beslać

Co-Secretary: Ms Amara Okenwa

Administrative Manager: Ms Soudachanh Tandara-Stenier

Director, Accessions Division: Mr Chiedu Osakwe

Being a WTO member means a balance of rights and obligations:

  • The right to enjoy liberalized trade based on multilateral rules with other WTO members and to use the WTO’s dispute settlement system; and
  • The obligation to apply WTO rules and to open its markets according to the membership deal.

Seychelles’ draft accession package, spelling out the country’s terms of membership, contains:

  • the draft Working Party Report outlining its reformed trade regime and its commitments as a WTO member to ensure conformity with WTO rules;
  • Seychelles’ draft market access concessions and commitments  on goods and specific commitments on trade in services (contained in "schedules");
  • a draft decision by the WTO’s General Council, the WTO’s top decision-making body after the Ministerial Conference; and
  • Seychelles’ draft Protocol of Accession (document to be signed by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and Seychelles’ Government representative following the December General Council session, subject to domestic ratification).

“I welcome the hard work undertaken by WTO members and the Government of Seychelles to complete this accession process”, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo declared. “It is particularly timely as the world is marking the International Year of Small Island Developing States. The WTO provides a vital platform for small economies like Seychelles to make their voice heard at the global level. I am confident that joining the WTO will prove to be a big step forward for the development of the Seychelles and their integration into the global economy.”

H.E. Pierre Laporte, Minister of Finance, Trade and Investment for Seychelles, said: “WTO membership was an extremely important step forward for Seychelles. Accession was only a stepping stone for us to pursue our reforms. In fact, reform was an on-going process. In addition, our efforts during the accession process had enhanced and strengthened [Seychelles'] regulatory framework and trading system, WTO Membership will provide Seychelles with a platform to continue to reform its trade regime. It will open Seychelles' economy further to the benefits of a more open trading system and complement Seychelles' efforts toward further integration both in the region and the multilateral trading system.” His opening and closing remarks are available here.

Working Party Chairperson Ms Hilda Al-Hinai stated: “Seychelles’ WTO accession is a strong, positive and clear signal to its trading partners, including to other Small Island Developing States, for its commitment to engaging with the global economy in the framework of the rules-based multilateral trading system.”

 

Overview of Seychelles’ commitments

The quality of the accession accord of Seychelles provides significant improvements in market access opportunities for all WTO Members, under the Most-favoured-nation principle under which countries cannot discriminate between their trading partners. Taken together, its commitments further liberalize its trade regime and provide impetus for its continued integration in the global economy. The deal also offers a transparent and predictable environment for trade and foreign investment, ensuring fair competition and increased consumer welfare.

 

Market access for goods and services

Bilateral Deals

Seychelles’ bilateral market access deals were:

On goods with: Canada, the EU, Japan, Mauritius, Oman, South Africa, Thailand and the US.

On services with: Canada, the EU, Japan, Mauritius, Oman, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand and the US.

Following the conclusion of all bilateral market access negotiations between interested Members and the acceding government, the WTO Secretariat consolidates the results of all concluded, signed and deposited bilateral agreements into a Schedule of Concessions and Commitments on Goods ("Draft Goods Schedule") and a Schedule of Specific Commitments on Services ("Draft Services Schedule"). The Schedules are the "Final Market Access Offers" by the acceding governments which, when adopted, become available to all WTO Members.

As part of the accession negotiations, Seychelles concluded eight bilateral agreements on market access for goods and nine bilateral agreements on market access for services.

On goods,Seychelles has undertaken tariff concessions and commitments that “bind” tariff rates for all products on average at 9.5 per cent. For agricultural products, this average is 16.9 per cent while for non‑agricultural products the average is 8.3 per cent.

Seychelles committed to join the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) upon accession, a WTO plurilateral agreement providing for participants to completely eliminate duties on IT products covered by the ITA Agreement.

On services,Seychelles has made specific commitments in 11 services sectors, including 97 sub‑sectors.

 

Rules Package

On its rules Package, Seychelles’ Accession Working Party Report contains 40 specific commitment paragraphs. From the date of accession, Seychelles has committed to fully apply all WTO provisions with recourse to transitional periods only for sanitary and phytosanitary measures (food safety and animal and plant health), technical barriers to trade (product standards and certification) and transparency (see below). Seychelles will initiate negotiations to accede to the Government Procurement Agreement within 12 months of its accession, a WTO plurilateral agreement covering the procurement of goods, services and capital infrastructure by Governments and other public authorities.

 

Further accession-specific commitments

  • State-owned and State-controlled enterprises will make purchases and sales which are not for the Government’s own use in accordance with commercial considerations. Companies from other WTO members will be afforded adequate opportunity to compete for participation in purchases or sales of Seychelles’ State enterprises.  Seychelles will notify any of its enterprises falling within the scope of the Understanding on the Interpretation of Article XVII of the GATT 1994.
  • Seychelles will make sure that any price control measures that the Government introduces would be applied in a WTO-consistent fashion, including by taking account of the interests of importing and exporting WTO Members.
  • Seychelles will ensure that business entities are not hindered by anti-competitive practices in their respective markets and that the benefits derived from effective competition are sustained. Seychelles will also ensure that the market is fair, accessible, efficient, and sustainable through increased consumer welfare and improved consumer awareness.
  • Seychelles will provide for the right to appeal administrative rulings to an independent tribunal on WTO matters, including those on trade regulations, subsidies, customs valuation, intellectual property rights and domestic regulation in services.
  • Sub-central authorities have no autonomous authority over issues of subsidies, taxation, trade policy, or any other measures covered by WTO provisions. Provisions of the WTO Agreements, including Seychelles’ Protocol, will be applied uniformly throughout its Customs territory and other territories under its control, including in regions engaging in border trade or frontier traffic, special economic zones, and other areas where special regimes for tariffs, taxes and regulations were established. When apprised of a situation where WTO provisions are not being applied, or are applied in a non-uniform manner, the central authorities will act to enforce WTO provisions without requiring affected parties to petition through the Courts.
  • Any natural or legal person, regardless of physical presence or investment in Seychelles, will be granted the right to be the importer of record. 
  • All other duties and charges (ODCs) are bound at zero in Seychelles’ Schedule of Concessions and Commitments for Goods (Goods Schedule).
  • Import tariff rate quotas, if introduced, will be administered in compliance with WTO rules.
  • Fees and charges for services rendered by the Government will be applied in accordance with WTO rules and information regarding the application and level of such fees will be published.
  • Seychelles will apply its domestic taxes in a non-discriminatory manner to imports regardless of country of origin and to domestically-produced products.
  • Seychelles will not apply quantitative restrictions on imports or other non-tariff measures — such as licensing, quotas, prohibitions, bans and other restrictions — having equivalent effect, without justification under WTO rules. Import prohibitions and restrictions will be administered in compliance with WTO rules.
  • Seychelles will apply its customs valuation laws, regulations and practices, including those to prevent under-valuation of goods, in conformity with WTO rules.
  • WTO rules on rules of origin, preshipment inspection, trade-related investment measures, free zones and the transit of goods will be applied in accordance with the relevant WTO provisions from the date of accession.
  • Trade remedies: upon accession, Seychelles will apply anti-dumping, countervailing and safeguard measures in accordance with WTO rules.
  • Seychelles will apply all fees and charges for services rendered to exports in accordance with WTO rules. All laws and regulations governing export measures, including prohibitions, export licensing requirements and other export control requirements will be applied in accordance with the relevant WTO provisions from the date of accession. Seychelles will not provide any subsidies prohibited under the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.
  • Any subsidy programmes in place or established after accession within the territory of Seychelles would be administered in conformity with the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. Upon accession, Seychelles will provide a subsidy notification to the Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.
  • Seychelles will progressively implement the provisions of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. Full implementation shall be completed by December 2015.
  • Seychelles will not maintain or apply any export subsidies for agricultural products. Agricultural export subsidies are bound at zero in Seychelles’ Schedule of Concessions and Commitments on Goods.
  • Transparency: Seychelles will submit the initial notifications required by the WTO Agreements upon accession. All laws, regulations or other measures related to trade would be promptly published and notified. Within two years of accession, Seychelles will establish a website — easily accessible to WTO members, individuals and enterprises — on which it will publish all regulations and other measures pertaining to or affecting trade in goods, services and TRIPS prior to their enactment. Seychelles will provide a reasonable period of no less than 30 days for comments on trade regulations/laws. Seychelles will also provide periodic reports to WTO members on developments in its programme of privatization. In relation with trade in services, Seychelles will publish all laws, regulations and other measures, as well as a list of all organizations responsible for authorizing, approving or regulating services activities for each services sector.
  • Seychelles will observe all WTO provisions in its participation in preferential trade agreements, and will adhere to notification requirements related to free trade areas, customs unions and other preferential trade arrangements.

 

Next steps

Seychelles’ accession package will be forwarded to the General Council — to be held in December 2014 — for formal adoption by all 160 WTO members.

The final step before Seychelles becomes a WTO member would be the ratification of the Accession Package by Seychelles’ Parliament by 1 June 2015.

Seychelles will become a full-fledged member 30 days after it notifies the WTO of the ratification.

 

Opening remarks by H.E. Pierre Laporte

Madam Chair,
Representatives of WTO Members
Director-General Roberto Azevêdo
Members of staff of the WTO Secretariat
Ladies and Gentlemen

At the very outset, I would like, on behalf of the Seychelles Government and my delegation here today thank you and the Director-General for convening this meeting, which for us, is of major significance. Also I want to recognize the significant efforts that the Secretariat has continuously put toward finalization of the package of accession, which we have before us.  

Madam Chair, it has been nineteen years since Seychelles first submitted its application to join the World Trade Organization and almost four years since you first chaired the second working party meeting in November 2010, that gave another lease of life to the process. Since that meeting, and your ensuing visit to Victoria in early 2013 along with the Director of the Accession Division, we have made significant, and may I say, remarkable progress.

Whilst the initial conditions existed at that point for Seychelles to move forward with its accession, we recognized that much, much more needed to be done. In particular, much effort was required if we were to bring our regulatory framework at the level that met the conditions for accession. With this in mind we set out with determination and vigor to get there.

As you know Madam Chair, at that time I had just taken over from my predecessor as Trade Minister and I knew it was clear at that point that I had to give all I could as the new Trade Minister. I knew that I had to do it for my predecessor, and for my technical staff team who had already spent endless days and nights, with so much determination, to give everything to get us where we are today. But above all I knew that we collectively had all a responsibility to do it for our country, Seychelles, and our people. We recognized that we had to be become a member of the WTO, not simply because it was a process or because most others are in and we have to be too, but rather because it was the right decision for Seychelles; due to the benefits that WTO membership would bring to our economy and to our people. 

These past six years saw a significant modernization of our trade system, notably our laws, regulations and other institutional set-ups, which as a result has today brought us to a standard that is up there and comparable with international best practices and standards.

As you are aware, Madam Chair, since our last working party meeting here in July this year, we have concluded our last remaining bilateral negotiations, namely, with the United States of America. On this note, I would like to thank Ambassador Punke and his team for their hard work and invaluable support, and especially the flexibility shown to Seychelles during these negotiations, which were key to reaching satisfactory conclusion.

Madam Chair, I would like at this stage to reiterate the gratitude of the Government and People of Seychelles to the members of the European Union, and the Governments of Canada, Japan, Mauritius, Oman, Thailand, South Africa, Switzerland and again the United States of America, countries with whom Seychelles undertook bilateral negotiations. Especially thank you for the flexibility and understanding of Seychelles’ vulnerabilities and sensitivities, which emerged during the negotiations.  I would also wish to extend my gratitude to the other members of the working party, who have shown great support to our accession process.

Madam Chair, as you are aware, also since our last meeting we have worked very closely and intensively with the Secretariat and the Members to finalize the accession package, which also produced the consolidated offers. To this end, I would like to acknowledge the invaluable efforts of all members of the Secretariat team for their efforts.

Above all, I would like to express the sincere appreciation of the Government of Seychelles to WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo for the support accorded to our Accession process in this final stage. 

The results of this hard work are finally before you in the form of the draft Accession Package of Seychelles for consideration and (I hope) for adoption, ad referendum.

On this note, Madam Chair, let me end my opening remarks by formally presenting the draft accession package as a business package to the membership.

Thank you

 

Closing Remarks by H.E. Pierre Laporte

Madam Chair,
Director-General, Roberto Azevedo
Deputy Director-General, Mr. David Shark
Ambassadors
Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is with enormous pleasure that I take the floor once again, this time to make this closing statement.

Madam Chair, together under your esteemed leadership we have reached the doorstep of history. On this note I want to recognize the role of each and every member present here today, and those who despite their absence have had a hand in finalizing Seychelles' accession package. 

With this accession package now approved, albeit ad referendum, Seychelles has one foot inside the door of the World Trade Organization. And as you can imagine, we cannot wait to make that final step upon full membership, which we hope will happen during by first half of 2015 when our National Assembly expects to ratify our protocol of accession.  And as you can also imagine Madam Chair, I cannot begin to tell you just how elated I am, an elation that is shared by each and every member of my delegation present here today, and I am certain, also shared by each and everyone of you present.

Madam Chair, in my opening remarks this morning I reminded members of the long process that Seychelles has been through with its accession—over 19 years. Besides our efforts of the last few years toward our WTO accession process, this has coincided with a period in our history when our country has also undergone one of the most austere but much needed macro-economic reforms in its history. Despite those arduous reforms, we maintained our determination to proceed with our accession process as we considered both to be equally important and complementary.

We consider WTO membership as an extremely important step forward for Seychelles. Accession is only a stepping stone for us to pursue our reforms. In fact, reform is an ongoing process. In addition to the fact our efforts during the accession process have enhanced and strengthened our regulatory framework and trading system, membership will provide us with a platform to continue to reform our trade regime. It will open our economy further to the benefits of a more open trading system and complement our efforts toward further integration at both regional and multilateral trading system.

Madam Chair, as noted during the interventions earlier, accession would only be a next major step. Implementation and further reforms remain and I want to reiterate our commitments to this accession.

Membership of the WTO will also provide a more effective platform for Seychelles to address and seek resolution of trade-related issues. It will enhance investor confidence and boost our image amongst international stakeholders such as multilateral institutions and rating agencies. Evidence has shown that countries who have taken the route of WTO membership have made major progress in unleashing the potential of their trade regime. We are confident that this will be the case for Seychelles.

Madam Chair, the United Nations has dedicated 2014 as the year of Small Island Developing States (SIDs). I find it rather fitting that Seychelles, as a SIDS who has been at the forefront in the fight for the cause and recognition of the role of small island states, would be signing the Protocol of accession in December 2014. Seychelles' membership of the WTO is no doubt a great development for SIDs as I am sure it is for the WTO as an institution, as it reflects the Organization's principle of recognizing the importance of all members, large or small.

Today as we prepare to wrap up the accession package I would be lying if I say that reaching the finish line was an easy feat. But when I look at the accession package, I feel proud that we have achieved so much and reached so far. With the support of all of you, we have been able to present an accession package that is liberal and modern, and I thank the working party for recognizing this.

Madam Chair, I have so many people to thank for having reached where we are today. I have already thanked all working party members for their support and I reiterate the gratitude of my Government once again. I also thank all other members who have been there for us throughout the process. However, there is a few other groups of people that I would be doing gross injustice if I would not acknowledge their efforts.

First, from the bottom of my heart, from the team, the Government and the people of Seychelles let me thank you Madam Chair for your exceptional leadership. I cannot find words to express our feelings of gratitude. You led us through this journey with exceptional leadership, with passion and with our interest at heart. You treated our accession like it was your own country's and for this the Seychelles people will forever be grateful.

I want to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of the Secretariat team who worked on the Seychelles dossier, especially Mr. Chiedu Osakwe and his team, including Petra Beslac for their tremendous efforts, as well as all others who constitute this team. Chiedu, your experience and tact throughout this process has been remarkable.

But above all, I want to thank my staff here. You are an exceptional bunch of talented and hard working individuals. I congratulate you for the exceptional quality of your work, for the passion and determination that you showed toward our membership to this important institution. You never gave up, even when things got tough and when setbacks emerged.

I want also before I end recognize the efforts of my predecessor, now Vice President, Danny Faure for relaunching our accession process in his capacity as former Trade minister and for the dedication he continues to have for this process.

Madam Chair, Members, ladies and gentlemen on this note let me end by once again thanking you all.

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