UNCTAD, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the government of Turkey have been joining forces to assist developing and least developed countries from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in their WTO accession negotiations.
Hosted by the Turkish Ministry of Economy, a seminar was organised jointly by the IDB and UNCTAD in Istanbul from 15-17 September.
Sixteen Representatives from the OIC members Algeria, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan took part in the seminar.
UNCTAD's contribution to the seminar consisted of presentations on the following topics:
Assessment of the outcome of the WTO's Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013
Perspectives on the ongoing Doha negotiations and the post-Bali work programme
General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiation and its development impact
Legal process and procedures of WTO accession negotiations and challenges facing acceding countries from the OIC.
A simulation exercise on "a national multi-stakeholder consultative process" for the preparation and negotiation of an initial offer on market access in services using the GATS scheduling model was also organized by UNCTAD during the seminar.
Regarding WTO accession, in addition to the legal and technical accession requirements, UNCTAD presentations also dealt with questions related to the challenges faced by the acceding countries as well as the lessons learnt from recent accession experiences of developing countries.
These challenges include: internal preparedness; domestic institutional and regulatory reforms; coordination of the government machinery and of other national stakeholders; the depth of commitments and concessions with regard to trade liberalization while securing appropriate sequencing -- as well as social and economic costs and impact -- of WTO membership on the development of acceding countries.
The complementarity between the interventions made by UNCTAD experts and the Turkish Ministry of Economy's negotiators enabled the participants to gather firsthand insight into the current Doha multilateral trade negotiations and their development dimensions, as well as the impact of WTO accession negotiations on their countries' respective trade policies.
UNCTAD has long contributed to the delivery of workshops and seminars organised by IDB and other OIC institutions in the areas of trade negotiation, the international trading system, and WTO accession, with a view to enhancing OIC constituencies' trade-related negotiation capacity and allowing them to develop an informed and evidence based-negotiating position.
UNCTAD provides technical assistance to 22 countries acceding to the WTO under the terms of a trust fund supported by Finland and Norway. In addition, UNCTAD is able to provide the same assistance to Arab acceding countries through the recently launched Aid for Trade Initiative for Arab States (AFTIAS), which is financed by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Sweden and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC).