Seychelles parliament approves WTO accession protocol motion
Seychelles, an island nation of 90,000 residents, imports 90 percent of consumable goods it needs, relying on imports by sea and air cargo. (Mervyn Marie, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Seychelles National Assembly on Tuesday ratified the Indian Ocean archipelago's accession protocol to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The motion, calling for the approval of the accession protocol was presented by the Leader of Government Business, in the assembly Marie-Antoinette Rose.
The approval was needed for Seychelles, which has a population of 90,000, to officially become the 161st member of the organisation, which is to become effective 30 days after today’s ratification.
The conclusion of the island nation’s accession process, lasting almost 20 years, ended in December last year when the accession package, including the accession protocol was approved by WTO’s General Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Chairperson of the Working Party of the Accession of Seychelles to the WTO, Hilda Al Hinai, is currently in Seychelles and met with the archipelago’s President James Michel, State House, ahead of the ratification of the accession protocol.
Al Hinai, who is also the Deputy Permanent Representative to the Permanent Mission of the Sultanate of Oman to the United Nations Office in Geneva told journalists that they spoke about the future participation of the country in WTO negotiations.
“We are going to have a ministerial conference in Nairobi and as an African country we expect Seychelles to be active and participating in the Nairobi conference of the WTO,” she said.
According to a press statement issued by State House Michel thanked the WTO for the invaluable support in technical assistance for the Seychelles’ accession process.
“Mr. Michel added that Seychelles will continue to count on the WTO for support in capacity-building as Small Island Developing State looking towards developing the Blue Economy, as well as the technical assistance in the post-accession period,” reads the statement.
The Chairperson of the Working Party of the Accession of Seychelles to the WTO, Hilda Al Hinai, also the Deputy Permanent Representative to the Permanent Mission of the Sultanate of Oman to the United Nations Office in Geneva, met with President James Michel at State House this morning. (Mervyn Marie, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
Currently, the WTO's membership of 160 member states accounts for over 97 percent of the world's total trade.
The process of becoming a WTO member is unique to each applicant country, but takes an average of about five years for most nations.
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 on July 11, 1995.
The island nation 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.
Tourism and fisheries are the main pillars of the island nation's economy, with the main export being canned tuna destined mainly for the European market.
Seychelles also depends heavily on food imports with up to 90% of goods consumed coming by air and sea cargo.
According to the Seychelles National Bureau of Statistics, the country exported goods worth just over $230 million in the first 9 months of 2014, including fish products, sea cucumbers and medical supplies while importing nearly $800 million of goods during that same period.
According to provisional statistics compiled by the NBS the largest volume of imports to Seychelles in 2014 were from the UAE, followed by France, Spain, South Africa, United Kingdom, India, China, Mauritius and Singapore.