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Kazakhstan Finalises Terms for Accession to WTO, Nazarbayev Calls Event “Historic”

ASTANA – After nearly 20 years of negotiations, Kazakhstan finalised on June 10 terms for the country to accede to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“I congratulate WTO members and the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the historic step taken today to conclude the accession negotiations of Kazakhstan and finalise its WTO accession package. I look forward to welcoming Kazakhstan to the WTO,” said WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo following the meeting with the Working Party on Kazakhstan’s accession, during which the terms were reached, according to information released by the organisation.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev spoke to the people of Kazakhstan in a televised address in connection with the completion of accession negotiations on June 22, telling them the Working Party had met in Geneva earlier that day and Kazakhstan’s bid had been formally and finally approved. He called the event “historic” and said Kazakhstan was to become the 162nd member of the global trade organisation.

“WTO membership opens up new horizons for our economy. This ensures that our companies have access to foreign markets and gives customers access to a large selection of goods and services. Today 90 percent of our bilateral trade is with WTO member-states. Therefore, this decision is very important for us.”

“Kazakhstan is becoming more attractive for both foreign and domestic investors. We get the opportunity to create new industries and jobs,” Nazarbayev said.

“During the 19 years of the negotiation process, our government and experts have worked hard, defending favourable conditions for us. We have agreed on positions on the most sensitive issues for our economy, which include, among others, support for our the agriculture sector … the negotiation process was challenging for us due to subsidy-reducing requirements, but we defended our positions, as well as the markets of financial services and telecommunications. In addition, we have managed to combine the requirements of the WTO and the EAEU, based on our national interests.”

The President emphasised the advantages of being a WTO member-state. ”Accession to the WTO is a victory for the whole country, and recognition of Kazakhstan as an integral part of the global economic system. Symbolically, the doors have swung open in front of our country at a time when we started to implement the five institutional reforms. The standards of the WTO coincide with the spirit of the reforms: transparency, efficiency, competitiveness.”

He also explained that “After joining the WTO, we will not give up supporting domestic enterprises. Now, support measures provided by the state must comply with international rules. At the same time, Kazakh enterprises must learn to compete under WTO rules. I’ve been talking about it, and now is the time when we have to compete with other countries, not only within the EAEU, but on the scale of the WTO … As I have always warned, along with reaping the benefits of joining the organisation, the competition [for our country] will also intensify. All producers have to catch up [and grow] to the world level.”

The Working Party consists of 43 members of the WTO, 30 of which have initiated bilateral market access negotiations with Kazakhstan. So far, Kazakhstan has signed protocols on completion of bilateral negotiations with 26 countries.

The draft accession package will now be presented for approval to members of the Working Party WTO member. The draft Schedule of Concessions and Commitments on Goods, the draft Schedule of Specific Commitments on Trade in Services and Kazakhstan’s Accession Package will be forwarded to the WTO General Council for formal adoption by all 161 WTO members, the WTO website reported.

Chair of the Working Party meeting, Finnish Ambassador Vesa Himanen, has called the talks “one of the most challenging negotiations in the 20-year history of the organisation.” The challenge was Kazakhstan’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and its tariff adjustment. The Kazakh delegation at the talks was led by Minister for Economic Integration Zhanar Aitzhanova. Kazakhstan started its process of accession to the WTO in 1996. The Kazakh Ministry of Economic Development and Trade has been the government’s coordinating body for its WTO session negotiations. Over the last several years, Kazakhstan made significant progress in pursuing both bilateral and multilateral negotiations on WTO accession and currently is at the final stage of the accession process.

Accession to the WTO is one of the major priorities of the government’s policy to integrate into the world economy by enhancing competitiveness, diversifying the national economy and contributing to global economic welfare.