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"We seem to have found a good rhythm and I would like to thank everyone for their sustained engagement in the process," said Ambassador Kemal Madenoğlu (Turkey), Chair of the Working Party. "Over the past 18 months the factual picture has become much clearer. Attention is shifting to the elaboration of commitment language for the Working Party Report. This is an important step forward. It is at this stage, as the negotiators seek to define the parameters of the negotiation outcomes, that key policy choices will need to be made. High-level political engagement will, therefore, become central to the process. I hope that the authorities in Minsk will rise to this challenge," he added.
H.E. Mr Andrei Yeudachenka, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, led a 35-person delegation in Geneva which included deputy ministers of the Ministries of Economy, Finance, Anti-monopoly Regulation and Trade, and Forestry, as well as high-level officials of various government agencies and the chief negotiator for the WTO accession of Belarus, Ambassador Vladimir Serpikov. "The presence of this impressive team sends a strong signal about the importance that the Government of Belarus continues to attach to WTO accession," the Chair said.
Mr Yeudachenka noted that this 10th meeting of the Working Party was "an excellent opportunity to take stock of our progress and to discuss the next steps with the view to advance Belarus' accession. We believe that our accession is getting closer to the final stage and call on WTO members to step over the format of questions and replies and to move to more concrete work on draft commitments language," he said.
Mr Yeudachenka thanked the WTO Secretariat for the revised draft Working Party Report circulated among members on 8 March. The draft report, he went on, "reflects the hard work and distinctive steps made by Belarus towards the modification of its foreign trade regime. The draft commitments cover almost all sections of the draft report. These commitments show the willingness of Belarus to fully conform to the WTO rules."
Belarus also reported on its application to be granted observer status to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement.
On the bilateral front, Belarus informed members that it has concluded 17 bilateral market access agreements, four of them since the last meeting of the Working Party in September 2017. A number of bilateral negotiations are ongoing and several members were to meet with the delegation of Belarus during its stay in Geneva.
On the legislative front, the Chair stressed that the enactment of WTO-related legislation and the implementation of enforcement mechanisms is an essential part of the accession process and invited the Minsk authorities to "regularly update its Legislative Action Plan, to brief members on legislative developments, and to submit copies of relevant Belarusian and Eurasian Economic Union legislation, including drafts."
While recognizing that progress has been made by Belarus over the past months, some members asked Belarus for further clarification on a wide range of issues, including its investment regime, state ownership, state trading and privatization, pricing and competition policies, import and export regulations, customs valuation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and intellectual property rights.
Ambassador Madenoğlu said that the discussions on these areas "have helped the Working Party identify remaining factual gaps and areas of the text which will require further detailed work," and called on members to submit in writing comments, questions and drafting suggestions to the WTO Secretariat by 13 June.
The Chair said the timing of the next meeting will depend on the availability of the required inputs and on progress on the market access front. "A specific date will emerge in consultation with delegations and the Secretariat once the new inputs are circulated," he said.
Previous Working Party meeting: 13 September 2017 (9th meeting)
Working Party Chair: Ambassador Kemal Madenoğlu (Turkey)
Application first received: 23 September 1993
Working Party established: 27 October 1993
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