Mr Chanfiou confirmed Comoros' high-level political support for WTO accession that was also expressed in the bilateral meeting between Comoros President Azali Assoumani and WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on the margins of COP26. He considered accession to the WTO in 2022 to be a realistic possibility, especially in view of the positive progress made in the bilateral negotiations.
He also highlighted the importance of technical assistance to support the implementation of Comoros' economic development plan. This would allow Comoros, a least developed country (LDC), to fully benefit from international trade as part of its WTO accession. He noted that many sectors of the economy, including tourism, food and construction, had been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The chair of the Working Party on the Accession of Comoros, Ambassador Omar Zniber of Morocco, welcomed the support from the international community for Comoros' accession. He also thanked DG Okonjo-Iweala for her personal commitment to the accession of Comoros. “The accession of the Union of Comoros will give a positive impetus to the other accession processes of Arab and African countries, with a view to continental and regional economic integration for the benefit also of the WTO,” he said.
Mondher Mimouni, chief of Trade and Market Intelligence at the International Trade Centre (ITC), made a presentation on non-tariff barriers (NTBs) faced by companies operating in Comoros, emphasizing that taxes and fees, rules of origin, and lack of administrative transparency were areas where exporting companies faced important obstacles. It was recalled that trade facilitation was key for improving the business environment and competitiveness of Comoros.
Mr. Simon Padilla, Economic Affairs Officer at the STDF, called for resource mobilization to support Comoros in building up its sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) system.
Mr. Alban Bellinguez, an international consultant, presented the results of an STDF-funded project that helped Comoros build its National SPS Strategy. The purpose of the project was to develop operational action plans in key sub-sectors: food safety, plant protection and fishery products. Its results provided a basis for Comoros to develop a strategic framework for strengthening its SPS system, contributing to the progress of its accession which requires SPS-related reforms.
Government experts from Comoros gave presentations on technical barriers to trade (TBT), SPS and trade facilitation, highlighting progress since the ITC study and STDF project had been carried out. Comoros emphasized that the key issue at present was to secure financing to address outstanding needs. Representatives of WTO members and international organizations signalled readiness to work with Comoros on the technical assistance and capacity building that had been identified.
The event was a follow-up to the sixth meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of Comoros, held on 21 September 2021. At the meeting, Minister Chanfiou, who led in Geneva the high-level delegation from the Comoros, 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.”
Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang noted: “The Comoros' accession remains the WTO's most advanced LDC accession dossier and […] concrete progress can indeed be registered in time for MC12.”