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World Trade Organization

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international economic organization dealing with the multilateral regulation of trade in goods, services and intellectual property rights. WTO is a forum which establishes rules of international trade and tackles trade barriers through deliberations and negotiations. The organization replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), signed by 23 states in Geneva in October, 1947.

WTO officially commenced its operations on January 1, 1995.

As of 2019 the WTO accounted 164 members. 22 countries are now in the process of accession, including Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Uzbekistan.

Director General – Roberto Azevêdo (Brazil). 

Functions of the WTO:

  •  Ensuring the implementation of trade agreements.
  •  Settling disputes between members.
  •  Reviewing trade policies of its members.
  •  Organizing trade negotiations under the WTO rules.
  •  Accession of new members.

Belarus and WTO

Belarus continues its WTO accession negotiations since 1993. The Working Party on Belarus’ accession consists of 49 WTO members. In order to accede is necessary to agree with all interested WTO members separately (bilateral track) and with the Working Party as a whole (multilateral track).

The WTO accession negotiations were intensified after 2016. Since then 5 meetings of Working Party on Belarus’ Accession were held. The 12th meeting of the Working Party was held on 11 July 2019. The delegation of Belarus was headed by H.E. Mr. Alexander Turchin, First Deputy Prime-Minister of Belarus, who confirmed in his speech the intention of Belarus to complete negotiations on WTO accession by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan) in June 2020. The Belarusian delegation included H.E. Mr. Dmitry Krutoy, Minister of Economy, H.E. Mr. Maksim Yermalovich, Minister of Finance, H.E. Mr. Vladimir Koltovich, Minister of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade, H.E. Mr. Andrei Yeudachenka, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Agriculture, the MART, the National Bank, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Industry, the State Customs Committee, the State Committee of Standardization, the Belarussian State Concern of Food Industry “Belgospischeprom”, the Belarusian Light Industry Concern “Bellegprom”, the National Center for Intellectual Property and the Permanent Representative of Belarus in Geneva.

Representatives of more than 30 Members in their speeches supported the steps taken by the Government of Belarus to join the WTO, noted significant progress in harmonization of the national legislation of Belarus into compliance with WTO rules. In the course of the Meeting, a substantive discussion is being held on the current version of the draft Report of the Working Party on the following issues: economic policy, activities of state trading enterprises, pricing, quantitative restrictions, import and export regulations, the use of technical barriers to trade, sanitary and veterinary-sanitary measures, and investment measures related to trade. The Belarusian delegation provides answers to all the questions received from the WTO member countries. Official press-release of the WTO can be found here.

In Autumn 2019 Belarus is planning to submit to the WTO Secretariat the written answers to the questions posed by Members. WTO Secretariat will then prepare a new version of the draft Report of the Working Party, which will be considered at its next Meeting preliminary at the end of 2019.

On 10 July 2019, First Deputy Prime-Minister of Belarus Alexander Turchin met with Roberto Azevêdo, WTO Director-General. During the meeting the parties discussed further steps in the process of Belarus’s accession to the WTO, and agreed on a roadmap of our negotiating process. Roberto Azevêdo highly appreciated the efforts of the Government of Belarus to promote the negotiation process, noting that Belarus is in a strategic focus with a view to early get-up the WTO membership. The Director General assured that he personally and the WTO Secretariat stay ready to continue to provide Belarus with the necessary assistance in this direction.

On the same day, the Plurilateral meeting on agriculture was held in Geneva. The Belarusian delegation was led by Ms. Alla Lomakina, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food of Belarus. WTO members positively assessed the progress in the negotiations and stressed their readiness to actively cooperate in order to agree on mutually beneficial parameters agriculture support in Belarus.

Belarus has concluded bilateral negotiations with 20 WTO member-states. Since 2017 ten protocols on market access for goods and services were signed.

27 June 2018 during the meeting of the Committee of the World Trade Organization on Government Procurement Belarus was granted an observer status in the Committee. The Republic of Belarus became the first country which has got this status before joining the WTO and received the right to participate in the discussions at the Committee on Government Procurement.

On 6 March 2019 the WTO Secretariat circulated a communication confirming Belarus’ accession to the WTO Agreement on Information Technologies. After its accession to the WTO, Belarus will become the 83rd member of the Ministerial Declaration on Trade in Information Technology Products and, accordingly, the WTO Committee on Information Technologies.

In 2017-2019, more than 120 Belarusian experts took part in various courses and workshops based at the WTO, the Joint Vienna Institute (JVI) and at other training sites. 6 national seminars were held in Minsk:

  • on trade remedies (October 11-12, 2017);
  • on WTO agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary measures (January 23-24, 2018);
  • on public procurement (Minsk, 3-4 September 2018);
  • on quantitative restrictions and WTO Agreement on Information Technologies (November 8-9, 2018);
  • on implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (December 12-13, 2018);
  • on market access for services (January 22-24, 2019).

By the end of 2019, it is planned to hold 2 more national seminars on TRIPS and dispute settlement in the WTO.

In June 2018 Belarus was elected chairman of the WTO Informal Group of Acceding Governments. As of August 2019, 6 meetings of the group took place, including with the participation of the Mr. Alan Wolff, WTO Deputy Director General.

The WTO accession is essential for Belarus since it will help to protect national exporters from discriminative treatment on international market, will confirm the image of our country as a safe trading partner, and will raise the investment attractiveness of Belarusian economy

 

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