WTO entry sealed - Seychelles set to win formal approval in December
Seychelles, an island nation of 90,000 residents, imports 90 percent of consumable goods it needs, relying on imports by sea and air cargo. Soon it will become the 161st member of the World Trade Organisation. (Mervyn Marie, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles sealed its entry to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) yesterday when members adopted the Seychelles accession package during the final working party meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland.
This comes 19 years after the Indian Ocean island nation applied to become a member of the Geneva-based body.
“The accession package includes Seychelles’ terms of accession and its markets access offers in both goods and services,” says the Ministry of Finance, Trade and Investment in a press statement confirming that the island nation had completed the final step to obtain WTO membership.
The Seychelles Minister for Finance, Trade and Investment Pierre Laporte who was heading the archipelago’s WTO accession team has described the achievement as “a historic day for Seychelles.”
“As a soon to be member of WTO, our trade regime and practices are now at par with the best international standards and norms. I am comfortable that the package that we have negotiated for Seychelles provides adequate and necessary protection to our domestic sectors, whilst opening up our trade regime to allow Seychelles greater integration in the multilateral trading system,” said Laporte.
Now that the accession package has been approved two critical steps remain in the process for Seychelles to become the 161st member of the organisation.
“….. the first being approval by the WTO General Council, which is planned for December this year, and finally adoption of the accession protocol by the Seychelles National Assembly, which is expected around March 2015. At that stage Seychelles would formally become a full WTO member, the 161st,” reads the statement issued by the Ministry of Finance, Trade and Investment.
Currently the WTO membership of 160 member states, account for over 97 percent of the world's total trade.
"I welcome the hard work undertaken by WTO members and the government of Seychelles to complete this accession process," WTO chief Roberto Azevedo said yesterday when congratulating Seychelles for its achievement.
"The WTO provides a vital platform for small economies like Seychelles to make their voice heard at the global level."
The process of becoming a WTO member is unique to each applicant country, but takes an average of about five years for most nations.
The longest accession negotiation of a current member is currently that of Russia, which became a member of the WTO on 22 August 2012, 19 years after applying.
However, Seychelles is expected to surpass that record even if accession is granted by the end of the year.
Seychelles initially requested membership to the WTO on May 31, 1995, and made very little progress up until it re-initiated the process in 2008.
One of the main challenges Seychelles faced was the limited expertise and experience within its national institutions in trade negotiations and in general and multilateral negotiations in particular.
Since 2008, the government made a significant amount of progress to identify the required legislative changes. By 2010, Seychelles had submitted offers in both Goods and Services, and also established a Working Party.
The island nation has completed bilateral trade negotiations with nine WTO members that requested talks via Seychelles’ working party, namely the US, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Mauritius, Oman, South Africa, Switzerland and Thailand.