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After nearly 16 years of negotiations, Vanuatu's application for membership of the World Trade Organization looks set for completion following the approval of an accession package.
Following its reconvention in April, 2011, the WTO's Working Party on Vanuatu’s accession adopted, ad referendum, the accession package on May 2, which contains the reforms to Vanuatu’s trade regime, the market access schedules on goods and services, the draft General Council Decision and the draft Protocol of Accession.
Vanuatu first applied for membership in July, 1995, with an original accession package adopted by the Working Party in October, 2001. However, Vanuatu then requested more time to consider the terms of the agreement, indicating in 2008 its interest to resume and conclude negotiations.
According to the WTO, Vanuatu's commitments as a result of the package are as follows:
Commenting on the progress, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said that: “Vanuatu’s accession to the WTO is a sign of confidence in the organization and the multilateral trading system. WTO membership will enable Vanuatu, a least-developed country, to participate more fully in the global economy and will provide the country with a predictable and stable basis for growth and development. For the WTO, Vanuatu’s accession brings us one step closer to our goal of universal membership”.
The accession package must now be adopted by a special session of the General Council in May, 2011, after which Vanuatu will have six months to ratify it. Vanuatu will then become a full member of the WTO 30 days after the ratification date.
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