The Republic of Liberia, which is in the process of acceding to the WTO, has requested UNCTAD’s technical assistance during all stages of its WTO accession process. A delegation from the Government of Liberia led by the Minister of Commerce & Industry, H.E. Ms. Miata Beysolow, will be coming to Geneva the week of 7 July to participate in the Working Party Meeting for the WTO accession of Liberia scheduled on 11 July. On that occasion Minister Beysolow will meet with UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi.
The Government of Liberia has identified its immediate accession-related needs in which it could benefit from the accession programme offered by UNCTAD. The specific areas where assistance is sought are in the preparation of the initial Goods and Services Offers as part of the market access negotiations, including through the conduct of a revenue impact assessment of the Goods Offer in order to estimate the future impact of revised tariff levels on government revenue; advice in understanding the policy and economic implications arising from the various service sector commitments (e.g. telecommunications, financial services, professional services); preparation of the Legislative Action Plan and assistance with the associated legal reforms; dedicated training activities such as sensitization workshops with all stakeholders (e.g. government, private sector, policy makers, parliamentarians, civil society), and targeted training for the WTO Negotiating Team and WTO Working Group, including strategic support on possible approaches and options.
Looking beyond WTO accession, the Government of Liberia has also intimated that it would require UNCTAD's assistance in continuing efforts at further integrating itself with the international trading system and the global economy and its trade policy reforms to contribute to inclusive and sustainable development.
The Union of the Comoros is in the process of preparing its Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime with the assistance of UNCTAD for submission to the WTO. UNCTAD is also assisting in setting up the Comoros national coordination and inter-ministerial task force on WTO accession. UNCTAD will hold a Training Workshop on WTO Accession in Moroni 9-10 July at the request of Mr. Abdou Nassur Madi, Délégué Chargé de l’Economie, du Commerce extérieur et des Privatisations.
Activities undertaken by the UNCTAD Secretariat in support of countries in the process of acceding to the WTO is in pursuance of its intergovernmental mandate agreed at UNCTAD IX (1996) and reconfirmed at UNCTAD X (2000), UNCTAD XI (2004), and UNCTAD XII (2008) and most recently at UNCTAD XIII in Doha, Qatar in April 2012.
UNCTAD’s demand-driven support on WTO accession is aimed at assisting acceding countries integrate more fully into the world economy and the international trading system through WTO membership. The long-term objective is to enable newly acceded WTO Members to benefit from and contribute to the international trading system through expansion of trade, economic growth and development following WTO accession.
UNCTAD implements its programme on accession through the UNCTAD Trust Fund for WTO Accessions, which is currently funded by the Government of Finland and the Government of Norway. Other Donors have included the Federal Republic of Germany, France and the UK. UNCTAD collaborates with other technical assistance providers particularly WTO to ensure complementarity and thus the maximum and efficient use of resources.
Acceding to the WTO poses both opportunities and challenges for developing countries. A number of acceding countries, particularly LDCs and small economies, face particular constraints in:
(i) assessing the development impact of the complex obligations associated with WTO accession.
(ii) state of the art skills for technical trade related negotiations.
(iii) analytical capacity to support trade analysis and impact assessment studies.
(iv) availability of required data and information.
(v) resources to respond to information requests during the accession process.
(vi) resources and advisory guidelines in developing mechanisms to elaborate legislative action plans and implement legislation and undertake adjustments to benefit from WTO membership and
(vii) institutional coordination across government institutions and for holding multi-stakeholder consultations including with civil society and private sector . In this light, promoting the accession of countries to the WTO on terms consistent with their levels of development (otherwise known as on "balanced and equitable terms") and their ability to implement obligations associated with WTO membership and take advantage of new trading opportunities is the core objective of the technical assistance activities of UNCTAD.
The unique assistance provided by UNCTAD has been intensive and extensive, and focuses, as per demands from countries, on both substantive aspects of WTO accession negotiations as well as on the wider developmental implications in terms of policy, regulatory and institutional changes that need to be undertaken to equip the country with the capabilities to benefit from WTO membership in terms of trade expansion, economic growth and inclusive development. Often sectoral studies are undertaken on poverty sensitive or gender sensitive sectors so as to assist countries in assessing the impact of accession on these sectors.
UNCTAD acts as facilitator for sharing experiences and lessons learnt between Recently Acceded WTO Members such as China, the Russia Federation, Oman, Jordan and Nepal with countries in accession as well as among acceding countries themselves. UNCTAD’s assistance is also sustained over several years, following countries in their accession process until they accede and continuing to support them in the post accession phase.
UNCTAD has assisted Recently Acceded Members of WTO, for example China, the Russian Federation, Jordan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Cape Verde, Nepal, Oman and Samoa, in their accession process. In 2010 through 2012 UNCTAD provided support to 22 of the 30 countries in the process of accession, such as, Iraq, Algeria, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Azerbaijan, Bosnia Herzegovina, Belarus, Seychelles, Serbia, and all of the acceding LDCs (Afghanistan, Bhutan, Comoros, Ethiopia, Lao PDR, São Tomé and Principe, Ethiopia, Sudan, Vanuatu and Yemen).
UNCTAD member States have welcomed the contributions made by donors to this programme, and encouraged the donor community to increase the financial support for this technical cooperation programme, including through efforts to provide continuous and predictable multi-year funding to enable it to provide sustained, broader and deeper technical assistance and capacity building support that spans the entire range of pre-accession, accession and post-accession negotiations and implementation.