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“I hope that the momentum created collectively last year by this Working Group will continue in 2018. In fact, the accession of Comoros continues to be one of the most active accession processes in the WTO. In less than 18 months, the Working Group has met 4 times; several bilateral market access negotiations have been concluded; and a draft report of the Working Group has been submitted to members for consideration,” said the chair of the Working Party, Ambassador Luis Enrique Chávez Basagoitia of Peru. "We have come a long way, which brings us closer and closer to the goal. Given the technical maturity of this file, I believe that the conclusion of accession negotiations in 2018 remains a realistic goal, as long as we do a good job - both on the multilateral and bilateral fronts. This means that the Comorian delegation will have to intensify its efforts over the next few months, in particular to advance the legislative agenda when Parliament resumes its session next month,” Ambassador Chávez Basagoitia added.
Ambassador Sultan Chouzour headed the Comorian delegation on behalf of the Vice-president of Comoros, Mr. Djaffar Ahmed Said Hassani. Ambassador Chouzour said this 4th Working Party meeting was "pivotal" for the Comoros as part of its “desire and commitment" to join the WTO as quickly as possible and reaffirmed “the determination of the Comoros to concentrate and continue its efforts to achieve accession in 2018.” “I would like to solemnly reiterate this desire and commitment on behalf of the Vice-President of the Union of the Comoros,” he added.
WTO members commended the substantive work done by the Comorian government and expressed their support for a swift negotiating process that brings the Indian Ocean State closer to WTO membership. However, some doubts were raised about the possibility of finishing this process by the end of 2018 as further work needs to be done to conclude negotiations.
On the bilateral front, Comoros has signed three market access agreements - with Brazil, Japan and Oman – and has announced the finalization of negotiations with one additional Member. Further progress has been achieved in the two remaining bilateral negotiations on market access. The chair of the Working Party emphasized that in order to conclude the accession process this year, it will be important to close all bilateral negotiations by the time the Working Party meets again, so that the Secretariat can consolidate all the agreements into lists of goods and services.
The chair of the Working Party indicated that the legislative work still to be done “is the keystone of this accession." Mr. Chávez Basagoitia stressed that domestic reforms and legislative work are essential elements in all accessions to the WTO and that, in the case of the Comoros, a major effort remains to be made. “I encourage the authorities in Moroni to act quickly, as soon as next month, at the opening of Parliament's session,” he said.
The delegation of the Comoros provided the Working Party with updated information on the implementation of the revised Legislative Action Plan. “We are well aware that it is on our legislative action plan that we must now concentrate our efforts in the hope of achieving our objectives in a timely manner,” Ambassador Chouzour said.
Members were invited to turn their attention to the development of commitments for the Working Party report, the final document passed on to the General Council for approval, covering the applicant country's commitments on applying WTO rules. Members were asked to provide additional questions and observations in writing before 27 April.
Comoros was invited to revise the specific action plans to ensure the conformity of national laws with the WTO Agreements and to present an updated and revised legislative action plan along with the new WTO-related legislation.
The next Working Party meeting will take place tentatively before August, subject to progress on the legislative front and other developments in the bilateral market access negotiations. “I hope that the current momentum will be maintained and that we will be able to hold the next Working Group meeting soon - if possible before the summer break”, the chair said.
Comoros is a least-developed country (LDC) in the Indian Ocean, with a population of approximately 780,000. 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.
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