Briefing note: Samoa’s accession to the WTO
The Working Party on Samoa’s accession cleared the path for its WTO membership by approving, on 28 October 2011, the accession package which spells out Samoa’s terms of accession. The Working Party agreed to forward Samoa’s accession package to the Eighth Ministerial Conference to take place on 15-17 December 2011, for formal adoption by Ministers
The Working Party on Samoa’s accession adopted the accession package which contains the reforms to Samoa’s trade regime, the market access schedules on goods and services, the draft General Council Decision and the draft Protocol of Accession. Samoa applied for WTO membership on 15 April 1998.
Members congratulated Samoa on its commendable efforts in conducting all the necessary reforms to become a member of the WTO. Members added that Samoa’s WTO membership will contribute to its economic development.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said: “Samoa’s accession to the WTO is a sign of confidence in the organization and the global trading system. WTO membership will enable Samoa to participate more fully in the global economy and will provide the country with a predictable and stable basis for growth and development. Samoa’s accession brings good news to the WTO family as we gather for the 8th Ministerial Conference.”
Samoa’s Chief Executive Officer from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Auelua Samuelu Enari, said that today’s Working Party decision marked a substantial milestone achievement for Samoa’s WTO accession process, paving the way for Samoa’s integration into the multilateral trading system and reinforcing its participation in the global trade economy. He added that WTO accession was a worthwhile investment in the long run for Samoa’s economic development.
Information about Samoa’s commitments
Samoa’s Accession Package takes account of the 2002 Guidelines on LDC Accessions, in particular, through appropriate transitional periods for domestic adjustments on a range of commitments. As a result of the negotiations, Samoa has agreed to undertake a series of important commitments to further liberalize its trade regime and accelerate its integration in the world economy, while offering a transparent and predictable environment for trade and foreign investment.
Samoa committed that from the date of accession, it will fully apply all WTO provisions and did not require recourse to any transitional period except on intellectual property rights, transparency, customs valuation, the import ban on left-hand drive vehicles, vehicles older than 12 years and turkey tails and turkey tail products, as well as tax treatment of imported and domestic primary products.
Samoa would fully implement the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights no later than 1 July 2013.
By June 2012, Samoa would fully implement the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement.
Samoa would establish an enquiry point as soon as possible responsible for answering all enquiries and notifications, as provided in the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. Samoa would ensure that no technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures were adopted or implemented until it had implemented appropriate laws ensuring conformity with the provisions of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.
By 1 January 2012, Samoa would implement the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary provisions.
Samoa would fully and promptly implement the transparency provisions of the WTO requiring notification and publication. Samoa would establish an official journal or website to publish or update the new laws on a regular basis and prior to their implementation. Samoa would provide a reasonable period for comment to the appropriate authorities before measures were implemented. Samoa would seek technical assistance to implement this facility with the goal of having it in place five years from the date of accession.
Within five years of accession, Samoa would establish a nation-wide vehicle safety inspection system for automobiles older than 12 years that could require the suspension of the vehicle’s right to use public roads. Samoa would repeal its current import ban on vehicles older than 12 years. Importation would be denied only to those vehicles that could not meet safety and environment requirements.
Within six months of its accession, Samoa would commit that residents and owners of previously registered left-hand drive vehicles could drive them provided they observe right-hand drive driving regulations. Within two years of accession, Samoa would permit the importation of left-hand drive vehicles for special circumstances related to specific uses.
Samoa would within 12 months of its accession eliminate the prohibition on the importation and domestic distribution of turkey tails and turkey tail products in Samoa. As transitional measures, a domestic ban on the sale of turkey tails and turkey tail products would be in place and an import duty of 300% would apply to the imports. This is to allow time to develop and implement a nation-wide programme promoting healthier diet and life style choices. After two years, the domestic sale ban would be lifted and the import duty would be reduced to 100% or replaced by another tax regulation or by recommendations from the programme.
From the date of accession, Samoa would not introduce, re-introduce or apply quantitative restrictions on imports, or other non-tariff measures such as licensing, quotas, prohibitions, bans and other restrictions having equivalent effect that cannot be justified under the provisions of the WTO Agreement with the exception of those related to the import ban of left-hand drive vehicles, automobiles older than 12 years and the domestic sale prohibition of turkey tails and turkey tail products (see sections above for Samoa’s commitments in relation to these exemptions).
With respect to the Value-Added Goods and Services Tax (VAGST) exemption applied to Samoa’s primary producers, Samoa committed to eliminate or amend the VAGST Act 1992/1993 to bring its tax treatment of imported and domestic primary products into conformity with WTO provisions within three years of accession. At the end of this period, Samoa would report to the General Council on the amendment or elimination of this tax exemption.
Samoa would ensure the transparency of its on-going privatization programme by providing annual reports to members for as long as the programme would be in existence.
Samoa would notify and provide information on the activities of its new supplier of oil products as they related to the exclusive contract to supply oil products to Samoa on behalf of the government.
Samoa would publish the list of any goods and services subject to price controls in its Official Gazette.
From the date of accession, Samoa would not maintain any subsidies, including export subsidies. Any programmes that granted subsidies would be administered in line with the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.
Samoa would bind its agricultural export subsidies at zero upon accession.
Market access for goods
Samoa will apply an average final bound rate of 21%.
Upon accession, Samoa agreed to bind at zero all other duties and charges in its Schedule of Concessions and Commitments.
Market access for services
Samoa has made specific commitments on 10 services sectors and on 81 sub-sectors.
Members agreed to directly forward Samoa’s accession package to the 8th Ministerial Conference for adoption by Ministers on 15-17 December 2011.
Samoa will have until 15 June 2012 to ratify its accession package. Thirty days after the ratification date, Samoa will become a fully-fledged member.
General information about Samoa
(sources: UNdata, World Bank and IMF — 2008)
- Income Category: Lower middle income
- Population, total: 179,000
- GDP (current US$): 534 million
- GNI: Gross national income per capita (current US$): 2,911.5
- Life expectancy at birth (women and men, years): 74.9/68.5 (figures for 2010)
- CO2 emission estimates (metric tons and metric tons per capita) 158,000/0.9 (figures for 2006)
- “Ease of Doing Business” rank (out of 183 economies): 61 (figure for 2011)
- Exports (million US$): 72.0
- Imports (million US$): 287.9
- Major trading partners (% of exports): Australia (81.7), New Zealand (10.1), American Samoa (3.6)
- Major trading partners (% of imports): Australia (25.6), New Zealand (22.8), United States (12.4)
- The tsunami in September 2009 caused human suffering and damage to physical infrastructure, including tourism, of an unprecedented scale.