In October-November 2018, round tables for the business community were held in all regional capitals of Belarus to discuss the most in-demand topics on the process, status and implications of the country's WTO accession and future membership. The WTO Belarus Week was organised for the second time with the support from "Assisting the Government of the Republic of Belarus in Accession to the World Trade Organization through Strengthening National Institutional Capacity and Expertise” project, funded by the Russian Federation.
The Week's events were held in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, international and national experts in international trade and economic development.
Ms. Olga A. Kazakevich, Head of the WTO Unit of Foreign Economic Activity Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, emphasized that Belarus is in the final stage of accession to the WTO, and it is important that business is active, as this will allow the Belarusian negotiating team to defend the interests of Belarusian enterprises in negotiations with other countries.
Russian expert Ms. Elena B. Shapiro, General Director of the WTO Expertise Centre, exemplified that their fears (such as industrial decline by 40%, increase in unemployment to 30 million) about country's accession to the WTO did not materialize. Moreover, the industrial production increased by 3%, agricultural - by 12 %, and unemployment decreased.
Ms. Natalia V. Kireenko, Doctor of Economic Sciences, Deputy Director for Science of the Institute of System Research in Agroindustrial Complex of NAS of Belarus, presented in detail the structure of agriculture of the Republic of Belarus, the pros and cons for the agricultural sector after joining the WTO.
Ms. Galina V. Turban, Ph.D., Head of the International Business Department of the Belarus State Economic University, dwelt on key changes Belarusian enterprises would meet after joining the WTO. She also presented her book “WTO in the Interest of Enterprises”, which outlines basic norms and rules stipulated by the GATT/WTO Agreements and their use in foreign trade activity of enterprises. The books were distributed among the participants of the round tables.
Maksim Hubski, Ph.D., the Project Manager said that the accession to the WTO raises many concerns but, as a rule, they are ungrounded and arise due to the lack of actual information on the issue.
Therefore, the main purpose of the event is to increase awareness of the Belarusian business about the process and the status of Belarus' accession to the WTO, as well as showcase the efficiency of the WTO's tools in helping Belarus' businesses to get ready for the accession and work effectively within the WTO afterwards.
The experts who took part in the first Belarus WTO Week in 2016 mentioned the increased awareness of the business community on the WTO accession.
The WTO Weeks in Belarus 2018 brought together over 600 representatives of regional authorities, enterprises, business associations and higher educational institutions for the thematic dialogue to identify the most sensitive topics for the country's enterprises to be discussed before the accession of Belarus to the WTO.
Currently, 164 countries are members of the WTO, which account for more than 98% of world trade. According to international and national experts Belarus will get a number of advantages such as opening of new markets for national producers and exporters; access to the international mechanism for resolving trade disputes; improving the country's investment climate; improving the quality of domestic products as a result of competition with foreign goods and the increased competitiveness of the national economy.
A series of regional round tables was held within the framework of the fifth phase 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”. The project is funded by the Government of the Russian Federation and is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus.