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Afghanistan to Become WTO Member, Ukraine Invited to Join Government Procurement Pact

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The World Trade Organization reports that WTO members have agreed on the terms of Afghanistan’s membership and invited Ukraine to join the Government Procurement Agreement.

Afghanistan. WTO members are expected to formally approve the accession of Afghanistan and Liberia, which had its accession package finalized earlier this year, at the organization’s tenth ministerial conference Dec. 15-18 in Nairobi, Kenya. Afghanistan will officially become a WTO member 30 days after it ratifies the accession agreement, which must occur by June 30, 2016. In the meantime, Kazakhstan is slated to become the WTO’s 162nd member on Nov. 30. The WTO notes that six additional least-developed countries (Bhutan, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Sao Tome and Principe, and Sudan) are still negotiating to join while 34 others were either charter members of the WTO or have joined since the organization was established in 1995.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke pointed out that as part of its accession process Afghanistan has “incorporated broad economic reforms and its development goals within the framework of adopting WTO provisions.” Punke stated that Afghanistan’s goods and services schedules (including commitments for export duties) are comprehensive and that its domestic regulations are being aligned with WTO provisions. Other changes that have been or will be made include clarifying the right of administrative appeal, creating a new trade license for importation and exportation, reforming investment procurement rules in the extraction industries, simplifying and modernizing the application of taxes and customs fees to trade, and enhancing transparency in services licensing. Afghanistan has also decided to join the Information Technology Agreement.

Ukraine. The WTO’s Committee on Government Procurement has agreed to invite Ukraine to join the GPA, which will formally take place 30 days after Ukraine has deposited its instrument of accession. A WTO press release cites Maxim Nefyodov, Ukraine’s deputy minister of the economy and trade, as saying “that participation in the GPA would help Ukraine strengthen good governance in the area of public procurement, assist in its fight against corruption, and increase the transparency of government procurement practices.”

According to the press release, the aim of the GPA is to open up as much of government procurement as possible to international trade and competition while ensuring appropriate transparency and a commitment to good governance. A revised version of the GPA that modernized certain aspects of its rules and expanded its scope came into force in April 2014. The press release notes that 45 WTO members are currently covered by the GPA, that Moldova’s accession terms were approved in September, that eight other WTO members have started the accession process, and that another five have provisions regarding GPA accession in their respective protocols of accession to the WTO.

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