Mr. Jamshid Khodjayev, Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan and Chair of the Inter-Agency Commission on WTO Accession, led a 30-strong delegation to Geneva, which also included Mr. Badriddin Abidov, Deputy Minister of Investment, Industry and Trade and Chief Negotiator for WTO accession; Mr. Alisher Karimov, Deputy Minister of Justice; and Mr. Ahadbek Haydarov, Deputy Minister of Agriculture. Officials from a range of ministries and agencies also joined virtually from Tashkent.
“The presence of this impressive delegation demonstrates Uzbekistan's strong commitment to WTO accession,” said the Chair of the Working Party, Ambassador Yun Seong-deok of the Republic of Korea, who noted that since the last Working Party meeting in June 2022 the pace of work in the accession process has accelerated. Chairing his first meeting following his appointment by the General Council on 7 March, he expressed his readiness to support the advancement of this accession.
Uzbekistan submitted an updated set of documents to the Working Party between September and November 2022 and stepped up its bilateral engagement with members on the market access front. Moreover, a negotiating team from Tashkent led by Mr. Abidov visited Geneva last December and then again in January in an effort to intensify and advance negotiations. Bilateral negotiations continued on the margins of the 14 March Working Party meeting.
In his statement, Mr. Khodjayev stressed that WTO membership is “an absolute priority” for Uzbekistan.
“We will intensify substantive bilateral market access negotiations and advance actively the work on synchronizing our commitments and harmonization of Uzbekistan’s legislation with the rules and requirements of the WTO. Meanwhile, we will strive to ensure such a balance of rights and obligations that will ensure sustainable and consistent growth of the national economy,” he said.
Uzbekistan announced the conclusion of bilateral market access negotiations with three WTO members. Mr. Khodjayev thanked members for their continued support and willingness to hold substantive negotiations. “We are ready for an open, constructive dialogue to discuss all issues in the spirit of mutual understanding and respect,” he added.
In remarks to the Working Party, WTO Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang underlined that the WTO Secretariat will support Uzbekistan and members “to advance in all pillars of negotiations, especially in locking in progress in areas where agreements start emerging.”
“One particular area where the Secretariat can play a role is the coordination of technical assistance (TA), especially now that we established the TA-Coordination Group on WTO Accessions with our partners last summer. Well-coordinated TA goes hand-in-hand with a smooth and efficient accession process,” he added.
Members appreciated Uzbekistan's commitment to prioritize WTO accession and to accelerate the process. At the same time, they favoured focusing on substance rather than specific deadlines in the accession negotiations and encouraged Uzbekistan to stay committed in undertaking concrete actions that result in the necessary trade and economic reforms required to implement WTO rules.
The Working Party reviewed the state of play in the bilateral market access negotiations in goods and services and continued the examination of the foreign trade regime of Uzbekistan on the basis of the Factual Summary of Points Raised prepared by the Secretariat. It also assessed legislative developments and considered the next steps in this accession process.
On the bilateral front, Uzbekistan and members were urged to step up their technical engagement to register concrete progress in the coming months and to start concluding negotiations where possible. Members asked Uzbekistan to share as soon as possible its revised market access offers on goods and services, and to provide its applied tariff rates in one of the official languages of the WTO.
On the multilateral front, the Chair noted there is now a basis to give consideration for upgrading the Factual Summary of Points Raised to an “Elements of a draft Report of the Working Party”, under the condition that further inputs from Tashkent keep reflecting Uzbekistan's readiness to bring its foreign trade regime in conformity with WTO rules. In addition, Uzbekistan was requested to update other supporting documents, especially its Agriculture Supporting Tables for a more recent reference period.
Regarding legislation, Uzbekistan was asked to revise its Legislative Action Plan and provide to the Working Party copies of enacted and draft trade-related legislation.
The Chair left open the date for the next Working Party meeting but hoped it could take place before the WTO's August break, subject to the timely submission of all the negotiating inputs by Tashkent and progress in the bilateral market access negotiations.
“I believe we had very useful and productive Working Party meeting,” concluded Ambassador Yun, thanking both Uzbekistan and members for their constructive engagement.