Latest Kazakh WTO Accession Talks in Washington Focus on Plant and Animal Health

WTO 2The most recent round of negotiations on Kazakhstan’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with the United States, this time focused on harmonizing measures regarding plant and animal disease control, took place in Washington, D.C., on March 4-6 with the participation of Kazakh Minister for Economic Integration Zhanar Aitzhanova.

The negotiations took place without the presence of the Russian delegation which was not invited by the U.S. side in light of the ongoing crisis in and around Ukraine.

“We conducted the negotiations and consultations independently, and we are also consulting with our Russian and Belarusian colleagues. The consultations within the framework of the Customs Union (CU) are also underway. The issues are related to the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) and the competencies of the three countries, so in any case we must coordinate them with our partners in the CU. But since these negotiations concern Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO, we will hold them independently,” Aitzhanova said.

The veterinary and phytosanitary measures discussed in this round of negotiations are among the three issues currently hindering Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO. The other two hurdles are the harmonization of import customs duties with Russia and the countries of the CU, and subsidies and agricultural donations.

As Aitzhanova explained, regarding customs duties, Kazakhstan will join the WTO on its own terms. Until the completion of negotiations, customs duties with Russia will be different.

“The third issue that directly concerns the Kazakh economy is the volume of subsidies and agricultural donations. I know that many experts write that after WTO accession we will have a very difficult situation in agriculture and farmers will have no jobs. This thesis is incorrect. Currently, we are holding complex negotiations in terms of subsidies in agriculture that will meet our long-term plans to support the development of the industry,” she added.

By joining the WTO, Kazakhstan will become a full member of the global trading system and will be subject to all WTO fundamental principles and rules. These include nondiscriminatory conditions for the access of Kazakh products to foreign markets on the basis of most favoured nation treatment and national treatment; access to international mechanisms for resolving trade disputes; a more favourable climate for foreign investment; increased opportunities for Kazakh investors in WTO member countries; an increased flow of foreign goods, services and investments, creating conditions for improving the quality and competitiveness of domestic products; as well as the chance to participate in creating international trade rules that take into account Kazakhstan’s national interests.

It is hoped that this will enhance the country’s economic potential and ultimately increase Kazakh standards of living.

The negotiation process for Kazakhstan’s accession to the organisation has now lasted almost two decades. This January, then-Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov said the terms of WTO accession would be announced in March or April and that accession was imminent. While saying it was important to “continue defending acceptable terms” for joining the organisation, Akhmetov also said, “This year, we need to make every effort to complete the negotiation process.”

The process of Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO began more than 18 years ago, on Jan. 26, 1996.

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