Yemen Slated for WTO Entry

3 October 2013

Yemen's thirteen-year pursuit of WTO entry is now approaching the finish line, officials announced last week, with the global trade body set to formally sign off on Sana'a's membership this December.

Yemen, whose main exports include oil, fish and fisheries products, and natural gas, will be the seventh least developed country (LDC) to join the WTO's ranks since 1995 - the most recent being Laos. The agreement was reportedly made possible after Ukraine ended its year-long hold on the Arab country's membership earlier this month.

Joining the 159-member organisation is a long process, with the poorest countries known for facing particular difficulties. While acknowledging the length of the negotiations, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo also noted the importance of ensuring that the proper legal framework was in place for the accession. "Setting the conditions before you make an agreement is better than having an argument once the deal has been done," he said.

As part of its accession commitments, Sana'a has agreed to bind its tariffs to an average of 21.1 percent for all products, while opening its markets in 11 services sectors. The country has also made commitments regarding technical barriers to trade, customs valuation, and state enterprises, among others.

The accession package will be presented both to the WTO's General Council, as well as at the upcoming ministerial conference in Bali, Indonesia, for formal approval. Yemen will next need to ratify the accession domestically before its WTO membership can become official. Other accessions that have been rumoured in recent months as possible contenders for Bali approval include Kazakhstan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Afghanistan, but none of these had been finalised at the time of this writing.

ICTSD reporting.

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