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Vanuatu's WTO Accession Draws Closer

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

03 May 2011

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:

  • Vanuatu is to further liberalize its trade regime and accelerate its integration in the world economy, while offering a transparent and predictable environment for trade and foreign investment;
  • From the date of accession, Vanuatu is to fully apply all WTO provisions, and will not have recourse to any transitional period, except on intellectual property and on the publication of trade information;
  • Vanuatu is to apply the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights by December 1, 2012;
  • Vanuatu is to create an official journal or website available to WTO members, individuals and enterprises where all regulations related to trade will be published, within four years of accession;
  • Vanuatu will not apply any anti-dumping, countervailing or safeguard measures until it has implemented appropriate laws in conformity with WTO Agreements;
  • Vanuatu will apply an average final bound rate of 39.7% (43.6% for agricultural products and 39.1% for industrial products). All Vanuatu's tariffs are bound and 85% of tariff lines are either at 35% or 40%; and
  • For 98 tariff lines related to products such as wines, spirits, beer, turbo propellers, tobacco, turbo jets, chemicals, cell phones, radios and televisions, Vanuatu will phase its tariff reductions in over a period of up to 2015.

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.

TAGS: business | law | intellectual property | tariffs | anti-dumping | World Trade Organisation (WTO) | Vanuatu | offshore | agreements | regulation | trade

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