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. More information about the WTO could be found at its web-site.
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 – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria, since 1 March 2021).
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’ WTO accession negotiations.
Belarus continues its WTO accession negotiations since 1993, ,when the application to join the GATT was submitted.
There are three main tracks in the WTO accession negotiations: bringing legislation into conformity with the WTO rules; access to the goods and services markets; state support for agriculture. The results of this work are evaluated during the meetings of the WTO Working Party. The Working Party is a specially established body, which includes all WTO Members interested in trade and investment cooperation with Belarus. The Working Party of Belarus consists of 47 Members, including all EAEU Member States, as well as the EU, USA, China and Ukraine and other countries. In order to accede to the WTO it is necessary to agree with all interested WTO members separately and with the Working Party as a whole.
In 2016, Belarus significantly intensified its efforts to join the WTO. The transition from the Factual Summary to the draft Report of the Working Party was arranged, and Belarus entered the final stage of its accession negotiations. The Working Party Report is a comprehensive document that describes the economic policies of Belarus affecting trade, as well as the entire negotiation process during the Working Party meetings.
In 2017 – 2019, five Working Party meetings 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.
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 October 2019 Belarus has submitted to the WTO Secretariat the written answers to the questions posed by Members. On this basis the WTO Secretariat has circulated a new version of the draft Report of the Working Party, which will be considered at the 13th Meeting of the Working Party of Belarus.
On 10 July 2020 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 continues active engagement with the Members on bilateral track. Belarus has concluded bilateral negotiations with 22 WTO member-states, including with 12 Members (Australia, Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Argentina, Norway, Iceland, Ecuador, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Guatemala and Chinese Taipei) – since 2017.
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.
Detailed information on Belarus WTO accession is also available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus and the WTO website.
Regular WTO publications on the subject of accession of new countries, including the annual reports of the WTO Director General, are available on the WTO website.
Belarus maintains active contacts with the WTO leadership
In January 2017, at the 8th meeting of the WTO Working Party H.E. Mr. Andrei Yeudachenka, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, met with H.E. Mr. Roberto Azevêdo, WTO Director-General.
On 27 October 2017 at the Belarusian-European Economic Forum in Luxembourg, H.E. Mr. Andrei Kobyakov, Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus, met with Mr. Alan Wolff, Deputy Director General of the WTO.
On 31 October – 3 November 2017 the delegation of the WTO headed by H.E. Mr. Kemal Madenoglu, Chairman of the Working party on Belarus’ WTO accession – Permanent Representative of Turkey to the WTO, visited Minsk. Mr. Madenoglu met with H.E. Mr. Andrei Kobyakov, Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus, and H.E. Mr. Vladimir Makei, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus.
On 8-9 November 2020 Mr. Alan Wolff, Deputy Director General of the WTO, visited Minsk and met with by H.E. Mr. Alexander Turchin, First Deputy Prime-Minister of Belarus, leadership of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade, Ministry of Agriculture and Food, in order to discuss the concrete issues of multilateral negotiations on Belarus’ WTO accession. Mr. Wolff has also delivered a speech in the Belarusian State University on key developments in international trade and the WTO.
On 10 July 2019, First Deputy Prime-Minister of Belarus Alexander Turchin met with the WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo. During the meeting the parties discussed further steps in the process of Belarus’s accession to the WTO. During the meeting, further steps in the process of Belarus' WTO accession were discussed, as well as a roadmap for our negotiating process was agreed. R. Azevêdo highly appreciated the efforts of the Government of Belarus to advance the negotiating process, noting that Belarus is maintained in the strategic focus of the Organization.
On 25 February 2019 in Geneva Mr. Andrei Dapkiunas, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, met with Mr. Yi Xiaozhun, Deputy Director-General of the WTO. It was agreed that Deputy Director-General Yi could consider taking part in the WTO seminar for Belarusian Parliament.
On 11 December 2020 H.E. Mr. Oleg Kravchenko, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, met with Mr. Karl Brauner, Deputy Director General of the WTO, in order to discuss the possibility of organizing the WTO Secretariat’s technical assistance in the field of dispute settlement.
Belarus as an observer to the WTO.
Belarus enjoys an observer status in the WTO, which allows it to participate in the work of the WTO bodies, interact with WTO members at the Organization's site and to use the WTO's technical assistance.
Belarus takes an active part in the meetings of the Ministerial Conference, General Council, Councils for Trade in Goods, Services and TRIPS, Committees on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), Agriculture, Market Access, Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs), Antidumping and Protective Measures, Trade and Development, Customs Valuation, Trade Facilitation (TFA), etc.
On 10-13 December 2017 the delegation of the Republic of Belarus headed by H.E. Mr. Andrei Yeudachenka, the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, took part as an observer country in the 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During his statement at the plenary session of the Ministerial Conference H.E. Mr. Andrei Yeudachenka confirmed the desire of the Republic of Belarus to become a full-fledged member of the WTO and informed about the steps being taken by the Government of the Republic of Belarus in this regard.
On 15 May 2020, the Permanent Representative of Belarus in Geneva H.E. Mr. Yury Ambrazevich took part in a special meeting of the WTO General Council dedicated to the WTO members’ actions aimed at combatting the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In his statement the Permanent Representative of Belarus noted that Belarus notified the WTO of national trade measures adopted against the backdrop of the pandemic and agreed with the majority of WTO members that such measures should be reasonable, proportionate, transparent and temporary and should not create additional barriers to international trade. Yury Ambrazevich confirmed Belarus’s interest in the speedy formalization of WTO membership on mutually acceptable conditions and reaffirmed the readiness for constructive interaction with all interested parties in each of the negotiation areas.
Along with the WTO members, Belarus, as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, took part in the meetings of the WTO Committee on Regional Trade Agreements in November 2018 and September 2019, where the factual presentations of the EAEU Treaty and the Free Trade Agreement between the EAEU and its member states , on the one hand, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, on the other hand, of May 29, 2015 were held.
On 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. Mr. Arthur Karpovich, First Deputy Minister of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade thanked the participants of the Committee for their support and noted that WTO experience in the sphere of effective regulation of the public procurement sector and introduction of the best world practices in this field is very useful for Belarus. The head of the Belarusian delegation informed the participants of the Committee on the regulation of the government procurement market in Belarus, presented a report on the latest developments at the legislative level in this area. 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 June 2018 Belarus was elected chairman of the WTO Informal Group of Acceding Governments (IGAG). The group's work is aimed at improving coordination between acceding governments and expanding contacts with various divisions of the WTO Secretariat, including in terms of technical assistance. Thanks to the work of the Group, it was possible to expand the list of WTO documents available to acceding countries on various topics.
As of August 2020, 12 meetings of the Group took place, including on 9 June 2020 – with the participation of the Mr. Alan Wolff, WTO Deputy Director General, and the capitals’ representatives. Mr. Alan Wolff, WTO Deputy Director General, assured that the further expansion of membership remains among the WTO priorities.
In his speech the Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus – the Chief Negotiator for Belarus’s accession to the WTO H.E. Mr. Vladimir Serpikov confirmed the interest of Belarus in soonest accession to the WTO on mutually acceptable terms. H.E. Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, Permanent Representative of Belarus in Geneva, emphasized the importance of the acceding governments’ involvement in multilateral cooperation and strategic planning in order to overcome the consequences of the pandemic.
In July-August 2020, as the Chairman of the IGAG, Belarus, together with a group of countries that have recently acceded to the WTO (Group of Article XII Members), held meetings with candidates for the post of WTO Director-General: Ms. Amina Mohammed (Kenya), Mr. Tudor Ulianovschi (Moldova) and Mr. Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh (Egypt) in order to discuss the possible ways to strengthen the role of the WTO Director-General in the process of accession to the WTO.
Information on the work of the IGAG can be found in the monthly Accessions Newsletter of the Accessions Division of the WTO Secretariat.
In April 2019, an official notification was sent to the WTO Secretariat about Belarus' interest in participating as an observer in WTO negotiations on e-commerce, investment facilitation, and small and medium-sized enterprises.
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. 8 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);
- on the implementation of WTO TRIPS Agreement (November 5-6, 2019);
- on resolution of disputes in the WTO (November 27-28, 2019).
On December 6-7, 2018, the delegation of Belarus headed by H.E. Mr. Valery Voronetsky, Chairman of the Commission on International Affairs of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly, took part in the annual session of the WTO Parliamentary Conference in Geneva at the invitation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the European Parliament. In his speech at the conference, Valery Voronetsky informed the participants about the interest of Belarus in joining the WTO in nearest future and expressed the hope that the reform process would not impact in a negative way on WTO accession of new countries.
On 8 October 2019 H.E. Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, Permanent Representative of Belarus in Geneva, addressed the participants of the 14th annual Public Forum of the World Trade Organization in Geneva during a special event “On the road to Nur-Sultan: Eurasian perspectives on the future of the multilateral trading system”. The Representative of Belarus has underlined the interest of Belarus in WTO accession, which would contribute to advancement of the “integration of integrations” concept, which implies rapprochement, harmonization and interpenetration of regional and sub-regional economic unions. On the margins of the Forum Yury Ambrazevich also met with the delegation of the Court of the Eurasian Economic Union.
On 27-28 January 2020, the delegation of Belarusian academic circles visited Geneva. The delegation included representatives of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Academy of Public Administration under the aegis of the President of the Republic of Belarus, Belarusian State University, Belarusian State Economic University and Belarusian National Technical University. The delegation met with the representatives of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), who informed the participants about the main activities of the organizations, current trends in international trade, globalization, regional trade agreements and about the WTO reform process. Special attention was paid to negotiations on Belarus’ WTO accession.
On October 14-17, 2019, with the assistance of the Permanent Mission of Belarus in Geneva a study visit of a group of teachers and students of the Belarusian State Economic University led by the Vice-Rector Ms. Alla Pranevich was held to Geneva for the first time. The program of the visit to the WTO included around 10 lectures teachers and students have had the opportunity to get first-hand information about the main WTO activities, the priorities and specific projects of tits cooperation with the government of Belarus. Special attention was paid to the process of Belarus accession to the WTO.