Friday 3 November 2006

How to Become a Member of the WTO

For reference only. No kidding. This is a serious subject, although the picture is used for fun. Image 

Article XII of the WTO Agreement states that accession to the WTO will be “on terms to be agreed” between the acceding government and the WTO. Accession to the WTO is essentially a process of negotiation — quite different from the process of accession to other international entities, like the IMF, which is largely an automatic process.

Because each accession Working Party takes decisions by consensus, all interested WTO Members must be in agreement that their individual concerns have been met and that outstanding issues have been resolved in the course of their bilateral and multilateral negotiations.

All documentation examined by the accession Working Party during the process of negotiation remains restricted until completion of the process.

Who can apply

“Any state or customs territory having full autonomy in the conduct of its trade policies is eligible to accede to the WTO on terms agreed between it and WTO Members”. (Article XII of the WTO Agreement).

The request for accession

The accession process commences with the submission of a formal written request for accession by the applicant government. This request is considered by the General Council which establishes a Working Party to examine the accession request and, ultimately, to submit the findings of the Working Party to the General Council for approval. The Working Party is open to all Members of the WTO.

Submission of a memorandum on the foreign trade regime

The applicant government presents a memorandum covering all aspects of its trade and legal regime to the Working Party. This memorandum forms the basis for detailed fact finding by the Working Party.

Subsequent Working Party meetings will see the examination of questions posed by WTO Members based on the information provided in the memorandum and the replies provided by the applicant government.

Conditions of entry

After examining all aspects of the existing trade and legal regimes of the acceding government the Working Party goes into the substantive part of the multilateral negotiations involved in accessions. This determines the terms and conditions of entry for the applicant government. Terms and conditions include commitments to observe WTO rules and disciplines upon accession and transitional periods required to make any legislative or structural changes where necessary to implement these commitments.

Bilateral negotiations

At the same time, the applicant government engages in bilateral negotiations with interested Working Party members on concessions and commitments on market access for goods and services. The results of these bilateral negotiations are consolidated into a document which is part of the final “accession package”.

The final “accession package”

The “accession package” consists of three documents which represent the results of both the multilateral and bilateral phases outlined above. These are:

- a Report of the Working Party containing a summary of proceedings and conditions of entry and a Protocol of Accession.

- Schedules of market access commitments in goods and services agreed between the acceding government and WTO Members.

Approval of the “accession package” back to top

Once both the Working Party's Draft Report and Protocol of Accession and the market access commitments in goods and services are completed to the satisfaction of members of the Working Party, the “accession package” is adopted at a final formal meeting of the Working Party.

The documents are then presented to the General Council or the Ministerial Conference for adoption. Once approved by the General Council or the Ministerial Conference, the accessions package is redistributed as a non-restricted document.

Two final documents will be issued:

- The Decision of the General Council

The Protocol of Accession of the new entrant a Protocol of Accession annexed to the Report which states that the country accedes to the WTO Agreement, defines the Schedules and outlines final provisions for timing of acceptance of the Protocol and full membership of the WTO.

Becoming a full member

Once approved by the General Council of Ministerial Conference, the applicant is then free to sign the Protocol of Accession stating that it accepts the approved “accessions package” subject to ratification in its national parliament. Normally three months is given from signature of the Protocol of Accession for this to take place.

Thirty days after the applicant government notifies the WTO Secretariat that it has completed its ratification procedures, the applicant government becomes a full Member of the WTO.

Source: WTO documents.