Effective WTO membership is a joint responsibility of the state and business

Feb 27, 2018

On February 19, the final conference of the project "Assisting the Government of the Republic of Belarus in Accession to the World Trade Organization through Strengthening National Institutional Capacity and Expertise (Phase 4) was held”. According to experts, the process of Belarus' accession to the WTO is going smoothly and dynamically.

During the conference, it was announced that the Government of the Russian Federation, as well as the Russia-UNDP Trust Fund, will support the fifth, final phase, during which Belarus will stand a good chance to join the WTO.

Vladimir Serpikov, Ambassador at Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Head of the Negotiations Delegation of the Republic of Belarus on the accession to WTO, stressed that in the course of 2017 six protocols on access to the market of goods and services were signed, while for all previous years - only 10.

"We have almost finished negotiations with a number of other countries, and there should not be any unexpected steps from their side, although there are also cases when countries begin to expand their demands at the last moment. But we have placed our priorities, formed our position, and understand what our partners in the WTO negotiation process are expecting from us. Close cooperation with our Russian partners also helped us much," said Vladimir Serpikov.

The conference was attended by representatives of the donor of the project, the Government of the Russian Federation, who also appreciated the work done.

"We understand that the negotiation process will not be easy, but the Russian side is ready to provide all-round support to Belarus, including by using its position and influence in the WTO," Pavel Shevtsov, Deputy Trade Representative of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Belarus assured.

 "It is the high time for Belarus to join the WTO as the country experiences the increasing levels of foreign direct investments and is ranked 38th best place in the world to do business. It’s the high time that Belarus joins the other 98% of the world trade economy represented by 164 WTO members" said UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Zachary Taylor.

Within the framework of the project, a wide expertise in the field of trade policy was developed, and to date, Belarus already has experts of the highest level who are able to conduct trade negotiations of any complexity.

"It is important that the work done will help the new generation of trade negotiators within the WTO in the future and will also contribute to Belarus’ active integration with the rest of Eurasia," Zachary Taylor added.

Deputy General Director of the WTO Expertise Centre (Russian Federation), Doctor of Law, Anait Smbatyan, expressed deep respect to the negotiating delegation from Belarus for the speed and volume of the work carried out.

She noted, that becoming a member of the WTO is a colossal achievement for a country. When a country joins the WTO, all other member states take on hundreds of thousands of obligations to it. Membership in the WTO allows solving any issue through dialogue, since disputes are conducted in the language of law.

"A small island can win a dispute with the United States. And this is normal, because there are arguments, there is evidence and there is rationality. No matter how difficult the situation is, the WTO has a mechanism for resolving disputes, clear and understandable procedures that are the same for everyone," Anait Smbatyan emphasized.

All participants of the conference agreed that it is very important to enlighten the business during the process of accession. This issue will be given a special attention in the framework of the fifth phase of the project.

Director of the National Research University «Higher School of Economics» (Russian Federation), Doctor of Economics Alexander Daniltsev noted that there is a big problem to mobilize business, because business would rather react to risks and threats associated with them.

"It is important to spark their interest and show the opportunities that WTO membership can open for enhancing the competitive advantages of the national business," said Alexander Daniltsev.

Anahit Smbatyan added that signals about violation of the WTO agreements usually come from business. "Therefore, in order that business could help the state, it should be engaged at the stage of accession" the expert concluded.

The main results of the implementation of the 4th phase of the Project have been presented during the conference by Maksim Hubski, the manager of the project "Assisting the Government of the Republic of Belarus in Accession to the World Trade Organization through Strengthening National Institutional Capacity and Expertise (Phase 4)”:

- 14 analytical studies were conducted

- 736 national normative legal acts and acts of the EAEC were analyzed for the purpose of issuing recommendations on harmonization of more than 200 national regulatory and legal acts with the WTO standards

- The studies allowed to prepare three specialized publications for the national negotiating team, the Interdepartmental Commission on accession to the WTO, the beneficiaries of the project

- 60 national normative legal acts and other documents to serve the negotiation process on Belarus' accession to the WTO were translated into English (more than 2000 pages)

- 95 national experts participated in 33 WTO events held in 8 countries

- 70 representatives of the national negotiating team, the Interdepartmental Commission on accession to the WTO and 10 university tutors were engaged in training and conducting research in Belarus on WTO issues and upgraded their skills in the WTO

- 12 practical seminars were held for the national negotiating team, the Interdepartmental Commission on accession to the WTO, the republican government bodies, state enterprises, academia. Seminars were attended by more than 1600 people

- 6 roundtables on the issue of Belarus' accession to the WTO for 364 representatives of the Belarusian business community were held in the regions

The conference was attended by the representatives of ministries and departments that accompany the negotiation process on Belarus' accession to the WTO, as well as representatives of the academic community and business.

The conference is organized within the framework of the joint project of the United Nations Development Programme and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus "Assisting the Government of the Republic of Belarus in Accession to the World Trade Organization through Strengthening National Institutional Capacity and Expertise (Phase 4)” funded by the Government of the Russian Federation and implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus.

UNDP Press Office

For more information or media interviews, please contact the Press Office of the United Nations development programme, email: press.office.by@undp.org , Tel. + 375 17 327 48 76

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