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All World Trade Organization members have joined the organization as a result of negotiation, and membership consists of a balance of rights and obligations.[1] The process of becoming a World Trade Organization (WTO) member is unique to each applicant country, and the terms of accession are dependent upon the country's stage of economic development and the current trade regime.[2] The process takes about five years, on average, but it can take some countries almost a decade if the country is less than fully committed to the process, or if political issues interfere. The shortest accession negotiation was that of Kyrgyzstan, lasting 2 years and 10 months. The longest was that of China, lasting 15 years and 5 months.[3] Russia, having first applied to join the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1993, is still in negotiations for membership. Though it had made much bigger strides by securing a bilateral trade agreement with the European Union (2004) and the United States (2006)[4], a recent move to coordinate its accession with Kazakhstan and Belarus by forming a customs union will likely delay membership even longer.[5] As is typical of WTO procedures, an offer of accession is only given once consensus is reached among interested parties.[6]

Contents

Accession process

Status of WTO negotiations:      members (including dual-representation with the European Communities)      Draft Working Party Report or Factual Summary adopted      Goods and/or Services offers submitted      Memorandum on Foreign Trade Regime submitted      observer, negotiations to start later or no Memorandum on FTR submitted      frozen procedures or no negotiations in the last 3 years      no official interaction with the WTO

The process of accession can be broken down into four major stages: a country wishing to accede to the WTO submits an application to the General Council. The government applying for membership has to describe all aspects of its trade and economic policies that have a bearing on WTO agreements.[1] The application is submitted to the WTO in a memorandum which is examined by a working party open to all interested WTO Members, and dealing with the country's application. For large countries such as Russia, numerous countries participate in this process. For smaller countries, the Quadrilateral group of countries – consisting of the EU, the United States, Canada and Japan – and an applicant's neighboring countries are typically most involved.[6] The applicant then presents a detailed memorandum to the Working Party on its foreign trade regime, describing, among other things, its economy, economic policies, domestic and international trade regulations, and intellectual property policies. The Working Party Members submit written questions to the applicant to clarify aspects of its foreign trade regime with particular attention being paid to the degree of privatization in the economy and the extent to which government regulation is transparent.[6] After all necessary background information has been acquired, the Working Party will begin meeting to focus on issues of discrepancy between the WTO rules and the Applicant's international and domestic trade policies and laws. The WP determines the terms and conditions of entry into the WTO for the applicant nation, and may consider transitional periods to allow countries some leeway in complying with the WTO rules.[2]

The final phase of accession involves bilateral negotiations between the applicant nation and other Working Party members regarding the concessions and commitments on tariff levels and market access for goods and services. These talks cover tariff rates and specific market access commitments, and other policies in goods and services. The new member's commitments are to apply equally to all WTO members under normal non-discrimination rules, even though they are negotiated bilaterally. In other words, the talks determine the benefits (in the form of export opportunities and guarantees) other WTO members can expect when the new member joins. The talks can be highly complicated; it has been said that in some cases the negotiations are almost as large as an entire round of multilateral trade negotiations.[1]

When the bilateral talks conclude, the working party finalizes the terms of accession. sends an accession package, which includes a summary of all the WP meetings, the Protocol of Accession (a draft membership treaty), and lists ("schedules") of the member-to-be's commitments to the General Council or Ministerial Conference. Once the General Council or Ministerial Conference approves of the terms of accession, the applicant's parliament must ratify the Protocol of Accession before it can become a member.[7] The documents used in the accession process which are embargoed during the accession process are released once the nation becomes a member.[2]

Members and observers

A world map of WTO participation:      members      members, dually represented with the European Communities      observer, ongoing accession      observer      non-member, negotiations pending      non-member

The WTO has 153 members (almost all of the 123 nations participating in the Uruguay Round signed on at its foundation, and the rest had to get membership). The 27 states of the European Union are represented also as the European Communities. Some non-sovereign autonomous entities of member states are included as separate members, since WTO members do not have to be full sovereign nation-members. Instead, they must be a customs territory with full autonomy in the conduct of their external commercial relations. Thus Hong Kong became a GATT contracting party by the now terminated "sponsorship" procedure of the United Kingdom (Hong Kong uses the name "Hong Kong, China" since 1997). A new member of this type is the Republic of China (Taiwan), which acceded to the WTO in 2002, and carefully crafted its application by joining under the name "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (Chinese Taipei)"[8].

Tonga was admitted on 15 December, 2005 during the ministerial conference. On January 11, 2007, Vietnam became the 150th WTO member state.[9] Tonga finalized ratification of the admittance in July 2007, and thus became the 151st member state. Ukraine became the 152nd member state on 16 May 2008. Cape Verde joined on 23 July 2008 as the 153rd member state.

A number of non-members have been observers (28) at the WTO and are currently negotiating their membership: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Azerbaijan, Bahamas (process frozen in 2001), Belarus, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea (expected to start membership negotiations until 4 April 2007), Ethiopia, Holy See (Vatican; special exception from the rules allows it to remain observer without starting negotiations), Iran,[10] Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Montenegro, Russia, Samoa, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia, Seychelles (negotiations frozen since 1998), Sudan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu (accession agreed in 2001, but not ratified by Vanuatu itself), and Yemen. With the exception of the Holy See, observers must start accession negotiations within five years of becoming observers. Some international intergovernmental organizations are also granted observer status to WTO bodies.[11]

Syria first applied to join the WTO in October 2001, then again in January 2004 and September 2005. Its application for membership is currently pending, awaiting WTO General Council approval to start negotiations.

The following states (14) and territories (2) so far have no official interaction with the WTO: the states of Eritrea, Somalia, Turkmenistan, North Korea, Monaco, San Marino, East Timor, Nauru, Tuvalu, Palau, Kiribati, Micronesia, Marshall Islands and the territories of Western Sahara and Palestine.

List of members and accession dates

The following table lists all current members and their accession date.[12]

Country Date of Accession
Albania 02000-09-08 September 8, 2000
Angola 01996-11-23 November 23, 1996
Antigua and Barbuda 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Argentina 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Armenia 02003-02-05 February 5, 2003
Australia 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Austria 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Bahrain 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Bangladesh 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Barbados 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Belgium 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Belize 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Benin 01996-02-22 February 22, 1996
Bolivia 01995-09-12 September 12, 1995
Botswana 01995-05-31 May 31, 1995
Brazil 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Brunei Darussalam 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Bulgaria 01996-12-01 December 1, 1996
Burkina Faso 01995-06-03 June 3, 1995
Burundi 01995-07-23 July 23, 1995
Cambodia 02004-10-13 October 13, 2004
Cameroon 01995-12-13 December 13, 1995
Canada 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Cape Verde 02008-07-23 July 23, 2008
Central African Republic 01995-05-31 May 31, 1995
Chad 01996-10-19 October 19, 1996
Chile 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
China 02001-12-11 December 11, 2001
Colombia 01995-04-30 April 30, 1995
Republic of the Congo 01997-03-27 March 27, 1997
Democratic Republic of the Congo 01997-01-01 January 1, 1997
Costa Rica 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Côte d'Ivoire 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Croatia 02000-11-30 November 30, 2000
Cuba 01995-04-20 April 20, 1995
Cyprus 01995-07-30 July 30, 1995
Czech Republic 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Denmark 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Djibouti 01995-05-31 May 31, 1995
Dominica 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Dominican Republic 01995-03-09 March 9, 1995
Ecuador 01996-01-21 January 21, 1996
Egypt 01995-06-30 June 30, 1995
El Salvador 01995-05-07 May 7, 1995
Estonia 01999-11-13 November 13, 1999
European Union 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Fiji 01996-01-14 January 14, 1996
Finland 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
France 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Gabon 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
The Gambia 01996-10-23 October 23, 1996
Georgia 02000-06-14 June 14, 2000
Germany 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Ghana 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Greece 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Grenada 01996-02-22 February 22, 1996
Guatemala 01995-07-21 July 21, 1995
Guinea 01995-10-25 October 25, 1995
Guinea-Bissau 01995-05-31 May 31, 1995
Guyana 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Haiti 01996-01-30 January 30, 1996
Honduras 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Hong Kong 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Hungary 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Iceland 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
India 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Indonesia 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Ireland 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Israel 01995-04-21 April 21, 1995
Italy 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Jamaica 01995-03-09 March 9, 1995
Japan 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Jordan 02000-04-11 April 11, 2000
Kenya 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Korea, Republic of 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Kuwait 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Kyrgyzstan 01998-12-20 December 20, 1998
Latvia 01999-02-10 February 10, 1999
Lesotho 01995-05-31 May 31, 1995
Liechtenstein 01995-09-01 September 1, 1995
Lithuania 02001-05-31 May 31, 2001
Luxembourg 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Macao, China 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Republic of Macedonia 02003-04-04 April 4, 2003
Madagascar 01995-11-17 November 17, 1995
Malawi 01995-05-31 May 31, 1995
Malaysia 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Maldives 01995-05-31 May 31, 1995
Mali 01995-05-31 May 31, 1995
Malta 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Mauritania 01995-05-31 May 31, 1995
Mauritius 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Mexico 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Moldova 02001-07-26 July 26, 2001
Mongolia 01997-01-29 January 29, 1997
Morocco 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Mozambique 01995-08-26 August 26, 1995
Myanmar 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Namibia 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Nepal 02004-04-23 April 23, 2004
Netherlands (includes Netherlands Antilles) 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
New Zealand 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Nicaragua 01995-09-03 September 3, 1995
Niger 01996-12-13 December 13, 1996
Nigeria 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Norway 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Oman 02000-11-09 November 9, 2000
Pakistan 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Panama 01997-09-06 September 6, 1997
Papua New Guinea 01996-06-09 June 9, 1996
Paraguay 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Peru 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Philippines 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Poland 01995-07-01 July 1, 1995
Portugal 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Qatar 01996-01-13 January 13, 1996
Romania 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Rwanda 01996-05-22 May 22, 1996
Saint Kitts and Nevis 01996-02-21 February 21, 1996
Saint Lucia 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Saint Vincent & the Grenadines 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Saudi Arabia 02005-12-11 December 11, 2005
Senegal 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Sierra Leone 01995-07-23 July 23, 1995
Singapore 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Slovak Republic 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Slovenia 01995-07-30 July 30, 1995
Solomon Islands 01996-07-26 July 26, 1996
South Africa 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Spain 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Sri Lanka 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Suriname 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Swaziland 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Sweden 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Switzerland 01995-07-01 July 1, 1995
Chinese Taipei 02002-01-01 January 1, 2002
Tanzania 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Thailand 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Togo 01995-05-31 May 31, 1995
Tonga 02007-07-27 July 27, 2007
Trinidad and Tobago 01995-03-01 March 1, 1995
Tunisia 01995-03-29 March 29, 1995
Turkey 01995-03-26 March 26, 1995
Uganda 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Ukraine 02008-05-16 May 16, 2008
United Arab Emirates 01996-04-10 April 10, 1996
United Kingdom 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
United States 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Uruguay 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Venezuela 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Vietnam 02007-01-11 January 11, 2007
Zambia 01995-01-01 January 1, 1995
Zimbabwe 01995-03-05 March 5, 1995

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Membership, Alliances and Bureaucracy, World Trade Organization
  2. ^ a b c Accessions Summary, Center for International Development
  3. ^ P. Farah, "Five Years of China's WTO Membership", 263-304
  4. ^ Accessions: Russian Federation, World Trade Organization
    * Factsheet on U.S. – Russia WTO Bilateral Market Access Agreement, Office of the United Stated Trade Representative
    * Russia - WTO: EU-Russia Deal Brings Russia a Step Closer to WTO Membership, European Commission
  5. ^ [1] Russia Changes its WTO Strategy] Wall Street Journal
    * http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE5584RW20090609 Russia drops unilateral WTO bid for ex-Soviet pact], Reuters
  6. ^ a b c C. Michalopoulos, WTO Accession, 64
  7. ^ How to Become a Member of the WTO, World Trade Organization
  8. ^ J.H. Jackson, Sovereignty, 109
  9. ^ For an updated list of WTO members, see here Members and Observers, World Trade Organization
  10. ^ Iran first applied to join the WTO in 1996, but the United States, accusing Tehran of supporting international terrorism, vetoed its application 22 times. The U.S. said in March it would drop its veto on a start to Iran's accession negotiations. The U.S. has chosen not to veto Iran's latest application for membership as part of a nuclear related compromise.
  11. ^ International Intergovernmental Organizations Granted Observer Status to WTO Bodies, World Trade Organization
  12. ^ Members and Observers

References

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