Joining the WTO
Richard Pomfret, Professor of Economics & Jean Monnet Chair on the Economics of European Integration presented a paper on Uzbekistan’s WTO accession in the series Virtual Seminars on Applied Economics and Policy Analysis in Central Asia.
The paper tracks what will be the longest ever WTO accession negotiations and emphasizes the changing nature of membership commitments since the WTO was established in 1995. The seminar series is sponsored by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington DC and Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO) in Halle, Germany, and sessions are moderated by Bakhrom Mirkasimov of Westminster International University in Tashkent. The 59 participants in the seminar hailed from the EU, North America, India, Korea and Russia, as well as Central Asian countries.
Despite trade wars and decisions by the USA that undermine the operation of the WTO, the list of countries negotiating accession continues to be long. Uzbekistan is one of the largest economies that is not yet a WTO member and, after allowing its 1994 application lie dormant for almost a quarter century, the government is now actively working to fulfil the conditions for WTO membership.
The background paper to the seminar emphasizes that in contrast to the GATT era when members negotiated liberalization of trade by reducing tariffs and other trade barriers, the WTO sets out the accepted rules for international trade. Membership signals commitment to those rules. If a country is unwilling to abide by those rules, membership is meaningless – as for Uzbekistan before 2017 when exchange controls were accompanied by a black market for hard to obtain foreign currency. Under President Mirziyoyev since the forex controls were removed in 2017 and many other restrictions on economic activity have been eased. In those conditions WTO membership is a signal that Uzbekistan will play by WTO rules as well as giving Uzbekistan the right to expect that its trade partners will also play by the rules.
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