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European Union Supports Uzbekistan's Accession to World Trade Organization (WTO)

eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en
15 March 2019

On Wednesday 13 March 2019, representatives of governmental agencies in Uzbekistan met in Tashkent to discuss Uzbekistan's World Trade Organization (WTO) Accession process and prioritization of their needs. The aim of the Roundtable was to provide an overview on the law and practice for acceding to the WTO, and identify Uzbekistan's key needs in order to prioritize the technical assistance activities for the European Union funded project that will be implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC).

There are currently 164 Members of the WTO, accounting for about 96% of world trade. Since 1995, 12 countries from the former USSR have acceded: Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. The only 3 countries from the Central Asian region who are not yet members: Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. According to Rajesh Aggarwal of the ITC "The anticipated benefits of integration into the global economy have motivated many countries, including those in the Central Asian region, towards WTO membership."

Uzbekistan first applied to join the WTO in 1994 but since 2005, the negotiations have been at a standstill. The EU has welcomed the fact that there is now a renewed vigour and commitment on the part of the Uzbeks to relaunch this process in order to become part of the WTO family. According to head of the EU Delegation to Uzbekistan, Eduards Stiprais "The EU has witnessed the profound changes that have taken place in Uzbekistan in the last two years and we consider WTO membership as being crucial in underpinning the reforms that have already taken place and in successfully guiding the reform process in the forthcoming years. In particular, WTO membership will serve to make Uzbekistan a more attractive place for investments".

Uzbekistan is currently in the process of dynamic transformations. This process has been driven by the rapid progress on implementing a number of significant policy changes. These include public service, judicial, tax systems reforms as well as the liberalization of the foreign exchange regime. By improving the business and entrepreneurial climate, these measures have started having positive effects on the Uzbek economy, with an expected 5.5% GDP growth in 2019. According to Mr. Badriddin Abidov, Deputy Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan: "WTO Accession membership is likely to increase trade and investment which will act as a spur to further economic growth and development."

The Roundtable provided an opportunity for stakeholders to learn more about the WTO process, which was set out by Ms. Maika Oshikawa, Director, WTO Accessions Division. Mr. Aggarwal then highlighted the benefits of WTO Accession for Acceding Countries, including how WTO membership can serve as a tool to attract domestic and foreign investment to diversity the local production base and expand its supply capacity.

In addition, Mr. Jean-Sébastien Roure, also of the ITC, provided participants with an overview of the EU-funded project to be implemented by the ITC. Participants also had the opportunity, through a group discussion, to highlight key areas for prioritization.