Director-General Roberto Azevêdo welcomed the two countries as observers and said: “This marks an important milestone on your journey towards WTO membership. It is a statement of intent about your integration into the global economy — and your desire to use trade to improve the lives and livelihoods of your citizens. Together with the Secretariat, I will do everything I can to help you in that effort.”

Somalia and Timor-Leste took the first step in the process of becoming WTO members by sending applications to the Director-General requesting accession to the WTO pursuant to Article XII of the Marrakesh Agreement. These applications were circulated to WTO members on 7 and 8 November 2016, respectively.

At the General Council meeting today, members agreed to establish working parties to examine the applications from the two countries and report back with recommendations which may include draft protocols on accession. Membership of the working parties is open to all members. 

Ambassador Harald Neple, Chairman of the General Council, said: “I would like to invite Somalia and Timor-Leste, on behalf of the General Council, to attend meetings of the General Council and, as appropriate, meetings of other WTO bodies as observers during the period of your respective accession processes.”

Mrs Faduma Abdulahi Mohamud, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Somalia to the UNOG, said: “Many developing countries, particularly LDCs, such as my own, are keen to join the WTO because, among other things, the WTO promotes lower trade barriers, fair competition, non-discrimination, encourages development and economic reform while providing flexibilities for adjustment.”

She added: “Somalia as a post-conflict country is looking forward to utilize the support from the WTO in rebuilding the country for the future development and prosperity of its people.”

The statement of Mrs Faduma Abdulahi Mohamud is available here.

Somalia is a least-developed country and has the longest coastline on the African continent. It has a population of approximately 11 million. The 2012 Human Development Report estimated Somalia's GDP per capita at US$ 284 compared with the sub-Saharan Africa average of US$ 1,300 GDP per capita. Livestock is the backbone of the economy: 60% of the population is dependent on livestock production. The government has committed itself to developing key sectors of the Somali economy with special emphasis on economic enablers such as energy, transportation and financial markets.

Mr Estanislau Aleixo da Silva, Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of Timor-Leste, said: “Timor-Leste prioritizes WTO membership as it would help to leverage ongoing improvements in its infrastructure, human capital and administrative capacity to accelerate growth and economic diversification.”

He added: “Timor-Leste is fully committed to abide by the principles, objectives and rules of the World Trade Organization, as a least developed country, and to implement domestic structural, legislative and policy reforms needed to comply with its future WTO commitments.”

The statement of Mr Estanislau Aleixo da Silva is available here.

Timor-Leste is a least-developed country, with a population of approximately 1.2 million. Approximately 72% of households in Timor-Leste are rural and agricultural. The GDP per capita in Timor-Leste stood at US$ 988 in 2015, equivalent to 8% of the global  average. The government's objective is to diversify Timor-Leste's economy, to engage in proactive policies to attract and stimulate investment in areas such as agriculture, fisheries, tourism, light manufacturing and mining, while improving the economic infrastructure and business environment. In 2011, Timor-Leste also requested membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Many WTO members took the floor to congratulate the two countries on the establishment of the working parties. Members commended the countries' political will to integrate in the multilateral trading system despite the constraints that they face as post-conflict least-developed countries.

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