Afghanistan joined the WTO on 29 July as its 164th member, after nearly 12 years of negotiating its accession terms. It has also formally accepted the WTO’s new Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Afghanistan is the ninth least-developed country (LDC) to accede to the WTO since the organisation’s establishment in 1995.
The 30-day countdown to Afghanistan’s WTO membership was activated when Afghanistan deposited the instrument of acceptance for its WTO Protocol of Accession on 29 June 2016.
“I am proud to welcome Afghanistan to the WTO as our newest member,” Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said. “This is an historic day for the country and its integration into the global economy. We arrived at this point thanks to the commitment of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the government of Afghanistan.”
“I congratulate them on this achievement, particularly given the very challenging circumstances,” DG Azevêdo continued. “WTO membership will be a foundation stone in the country’s future development. I also want to commend all WTO members for their support in this process, and their commitment to helping LDCs to participate in the multilateral trading system.”
Afghanistan’s accession package was approved by the Working Party members on 11 November 2015 and by Ministers at the Nairobi Ministerial Conference on 17 December 2015.
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Afghanistan has also submitted its instrument of acceptance for the TFA, becoming the 90th WTO member and the ninth LDC member to do so. Afghanistan will benefit from special flexibilities in the TFA allowing developing countries and LDCs to determine when they will implement individual provisions of the Agreement and to identify provisions that they will only be able to implement upon the receipt of technical assistance and support for capacity building. The TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO membership has formally accepted the Agreement.
Policy Dialogue on Post-Accession
In preparation for Afghanistan’s WTO membership, a Policy Dialogue on Post-Accession was organised on 11-15 July by the WTO and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), in Bangkok, Thailand. During the Dialogue, which was sponsored by the WTO’s LDCs and Accessions Programme (the so-called “China Programme”), Afghanistan outlined its objectives as a future WTO member. These include attracting foreign direct investment, promoting its exports and building the capacity of its officials to take part in trade negotiations.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Habibullah Asad Zmaray, advisor to the Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industry Mozammil Shinwari, said: “Afghanistan takes its WTO membership very seriously. As a new member, Afghanistan will play a constructive role in advancing the goals of the multilateral trading system. Trade helps to generate economic growth and will be key in helping the international community achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With our WTO membership, we have made a major leap forward in ensuring that trade helps us to achieve shared prosperity, economic growth and poverty reduction in Afghanistan.”
The outcome of the Policy Dialogue on Post-Accession for Afghanistan was further discussed at the Post-Accession Forum, held in Nairobi on 19 July during UNCTAD 14, where Liberia, another recently acceded LDC, was also present. Helping LDCs in the first stages of their WTO membership is an important part of the WTO’s work. A similar workshop on WTO Post-Accession was held for Liberia on 27-29 June in Monrovia, Liberia.
Nineteen governments are currently negotiating their WTO accession.