WTO members welcomed the efforts of the Comoros to modernize its trade regime and its readiness to advance domestic reform efforts through this process. Several delegations noted that the prompt conclusion of all remaining bilateral market access negotiations would allow ministers at the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) to send a positive message on this accession and other least-developed countries' (LDCs) accessions. Some members underlined substance should drive process and timing towards a satisfactory completion of the accession process and favoured not setting artificial deadlines.
Mzé Abdou Mohamed Chanfiou, Minister of Economy, Industry and Investment, and WTO chief negotiator, led in Geneva the high-level delegation from the Comoros. Representatives of the Permanent Mission of the Comoros in Geneva, headed by Ambassador Sultan Chouzour, also attended the meeting.
Minister Chanfiou told members: “We share with you and with the WTO Secretariat the objective of elaborating a precise timetable of the final steps to be taken in order to accede to the WTO as soon as possible, with the support of all our partners in view of the efforts already made by the Comorian side since 2016. In this process, Comoros is counting on technical assistance to help it meet the obligations arising from its accession to the WTO. I am sure that you will agree with me that the Comoros has done the best it can to conclude the negotiations and look forward to its accession to the WTO.”
Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang underlined the hard work and precious resources invested in getting the negotiations to such an advanced stage. He noted the Comoros' firm commitment to achieving WTO membership in the near future. “I expect that today's meeting will be yet another significant stepping stone on the Comoros' path to WTO membership. In this critical phase of the negotiations, I invite the Comoros to further deepen its engagement with WTO members, with a view to finding pragmatic solutions to all outstanding issues. The Comoros' accession remains the WTO's most advanced LDC accession dossier and I hope that concrete progress can indeed be registered in time for MC12,” he said.
The new Working Party Chair, Ambassador Omar Zniber of Morocco, commended the Comoros for its unwavering commitment to its goal of becoming a WTO member. He thanked members for their support to the Comoros in this complex endeavour. “While it is clear that it is not possible to complete accession for MC12, I think we are entering the final phase of the process. My goal is to find a way to complete this accession in 2022. With this in mind, MC12 could represent an important milestone if it helps delegations focus their energy on concluding the remaining bilateral negotiations on market access, including, if necessary, during the Ministerial Conference,” he said.
The Chair thanked WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for her personal commitment to facilitating the most advanced of all accessions in Africa and the Arab region. DG Okonjo-Iweala met in June this year with the former WTO chief negotiator, Minister Houmed M'Saidié, and plans to speak with the President of the Comoros, Azali Assoumani, in the near future.
Members welcomed the efforts of the Government of the Comoros to enact relevant legislation. However, they noted further progress needs to materialize in this area, which is key to the conclusion of the accession process. The Comoros was invited to provide a Legislative Action Plan and to submit to the Working Party all new trade-related laws for review, as soon as they are promulgated, or in draft form.
The Chair invited members and the Comoros to intensify efforts on technical assistance in order to accelerate this process, particularly in areas where the Comoros would need transitional arrangements.
Ambassador Zniber encouraged members and the Comoros to redouble their efforts and intensify their dialogue, both in Geneva and among capitals, so that the remaining bilateral negotiations can be concluded in the coming weeks. As soon as bilateral market access negotiations are concluded and tabled, the WTO Secretariat will proceed with the consolidation of all bilateral protocols.
The date of the seventh meeting of the Working Party was left open. Pending substantial progress at legislative level and positive developments in bilateral market access negotiations, the Working Group could consider holding the next meeting in early 2022.
The Comoros is a least-developed country in the Indian Ocean, with a population of approximately 850,000. The Government of the Union of the Comoros applied for accession to the WTO in February 2007, and the Working Party was established in October 2007. In October 2013, the country submitted its Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime. The first meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of the Union of the Comoros was held on 2 December 2016.
More information on WTO accessions is available here.