Belarus will approach WTO accession by the end of 2013
Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Guryanov said on June 29th that Belarus anticipated coming to “concrete conclusion” concerning WTO accession by the end of 2013, if the major WTO players (the U.S. and the EU) did not bring political issues during Belarus’ accession. Belarus is interested in becoming a WTO member in order to improve Belarusian exporters’ access to foreign markets and to improve the country’s investment attractiveness.
Belarus has passed four stages working on a summary report: parties’ comments were taken into account, the legislation was amended, and the fourth version is ready. “Once the report is adopted, we proceed to the final stage, where Kazakhstan is right now and which Russia has already left behind, i.e. drafting a working group report on WTO accession. In September, we plan to hold a working group meeting to enter the final stage”, Mr. Guryanov said.
He said the preparation of the Belarus’ working group report should take less time than for Russia and Kazakhstan, because the tariff commitments, which were the major negotiating point for Russia, were common within the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space. Belarus is not authorized to negotiate further concessions with the WTO members. Technical regulations, phytosanitary requirements, tariffs regulation were also agreed within the CES. With this in mind Mr. Guryanov believes that the working group report for Belarus “should pass automatically”.
To the moment Belarus has signed final protocols with 10 countries. In addition, negotiations with ten countries regarding access to their markets are to be held and with ten other countries regarding access to services markets. The principal countries that Belarus needs to hold “very serious negotiations” are the U.S. and the EU. Mr. Guryanov expressed hope that the EU and the U.S. will not raise political conditions for Belarus’ WTO accession.
Belarus’ interest in joining the WTO has increased with the expected accession of Russia and Kazakhstan its CU and CES partners. Belarus expects an increase in imports from the third countries via Russia and Kazakhstan due to the lack of customs border between the CU parties.
Therefore, in order to at least partially compensate for the increase in imports and a possible cut down in exports to Russia and Kazakhstan, the Belarusian Government is interested in reducing the import duties on Belarusian goods and increasing exports to WTO member’s markets. Accordingly, in order to benefit from the reduced customs duties on Belarusian goods and to have the opportunity to defend domestic interests more effectively, Belarus should become a full WTO member.