Azerbaijan takes next step for WTO accession

By Fatma Babayeva

Azerbaijan has recently submitted a new set of documents to the WTO in an effort to move forward in its aspiration to achieve a membership at the organization.

The government has submitted the answers to questions of the member states and the documents related to the improvement of the legislation and the decisions taken in the trade and economic sphere to the secretariat of the World Trade Organization, Mahmud Mammadguliyev, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister, told Trend news agency.

The documents were submitted to the WTO Secretariat to set a date for the next round of multilateral and bilateral negotiations with the member countries of the organization, said Mammadguliyev.

Deputy Minister stressed that Azerbaijan also needs to submit new proposals on goods and services, as well as a new schedule on the domestic support to agriculture in regards to the changes happened in the agro-industrial complex of the country during 2013-2015.

As the WTO does not have a practice of holding meetings of a working group without bilateral negotiations, it is very hard to say something about the date of the next meeting, Mammadguliyev added.

If the secretariat makes an exception for Azerbaijan, then the country could hold multilateral negotiations on the answers to questions including talks on agricultural sphere. But in this case, changes applied to the agricultural subsidies over the last three years should be introduced to the organization prior to the negotiations.

The last meeting was held in March 2015 in Geneva. The major talks covered the issue of domestic support for the agricultural sector. Azerbaijan stressed once again the importance of agricultural development for the country as the main non-oil sector of the economy.

Last year, it was planned to hold another meeting but the preparation of the documents required longer time.

The unification of legislative acts of the country is carried on an ongoing basis in accordance with the advent of new agreements. In addition, due to the large number of issues and proposals that have been presented to Azerbaijan by the WTO member countries following the last meeting of the working group, much time was needed to prepare all the document, as well as, to get familiar with the responses by the member countries of this organization.

Azerbaijan is required to prepare new proposals on tariffs for industrial and agricultural products.

WTO member countries including the U.S., EU, Norway, offer Azerbaijan to reduce bound tariffs on imported goods as part of their own interest. This list includes a large number of industrial and agricultural products, Mammadguliyev told Trend earlier.

The task of the government during the negotiations process for the WTO membership is the maximum protection of national business and producers. Previously, Azerbaijan proposed average rate of primary-bound tariffs (that will be applied after joining the organization) during the accession process to the WTO at the level of 13.2 percent, and the final bound average rate at the level of 11.7 percent (at the end of the transition period).

Moreover, the average-bound tariffs on agro-industrial complex was proposed at the level of 14.1 percent, while this figure stands at 22.8 percent in the developed countries, 12.7 percent in the developing countries and 15.4 percent in the less developed countries.

In Azerbaijan, the average custom tariffs amount to 9.4 percent while it is 9.6 percent in the developed countries and 17.7 percent in the underdeveloped countries.

Bound tariff is the maximum rate of customs duty on the import of certain goods which defined as one of the member country’s commitments to WTO and cannot be changed unilaterally by the importing country.

The status of the country is one of the major questions for Azerbaijan while having multilateral negotiations on the terms for WTO membership.

Azerbaijan proves its claim to the status of a developing country with the fact that despite the rapid development of the economy, the country has one million refugees and IDPs.

According to the requirements of the WTO, the country which has the status of a developing country can claim for 10-percent level [of GDP] of the agricultural subsidies versus to five percent for the developed countries.

Azerbaijan holds a status as observer country at the WTO since 1997. The Azerbaijani working group under the WTO secretariat was established on July 16, 1997.

Azerbaijan has begun negotiations with the WTO member countries in 2004.

At present, the country is in the process of holding negotiations with 19 countries.

The latest member of the organization Russia formally expressed a will to commence negotiations with Azerbaijan but the proposals from the country has not received as stated by the Deputy Foreign Minister.

Azerbaijan has accomplished negotiations and signed protocols with Turkey, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

Azerbaijan is at the stage of signing the protocol with China and Moldova.

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