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Belarus and WTO

The Republic of Belarus has an observer status in the World Trade Organization since 1993.

Belarus holds its negotiations on joining the Word Trade Organization in four major areas: bringing its national legislation in line with the WTO multilateral treaties, access to goods market, access to services market, state support of agriculture.

Consideration of issues related to compliance of the national legislation with the WTO rules is carried out in multilateral meetings of the Working Party on Belarus Accession to the WTO (the Working Party). According to the results of the Working Party meetings, the WTO Members may decide to move to the next stage of negotiations on the basis of results achieved in the process of bringing of the national legislation in line with the WTO rules. The accession process requires some procedures to proceed: Memorandum — Checklist – Factual Summary — Draft Report of the Working Party.

The Working Party on the Accession of Belarus to the WTO comprises 38 countries. So far, 7 formal meetings of the Working Party were held (on 5 June 1997, on 28 April 1998, on 5 March 2001, on 24 January 2003, on 30 January 2004, on 30 September 2004, on 24 May 2005). As a result, the Belarusian Side managed to pass the following stages of the negotiation process. In 1996 Belarus circulated a Memorandum on Foreign Trade Regime. As a result of the 4th session of the Working Party, Belarus had prepared the Checklist. At the 5th meeting of the Working Party the WTO Members approved the initiation of the Factual Summary elaboration. The main outcome of the 6th meeting of the Working Party was the decision on elaboration of the second edition of the Factual Summary. The review of this document commenced on the 7th meeting of the Working Party and was continued at the informal meetings.

Since 2005 the Working Party meetings were held in an informal format: 4 rounds of consultations in June 2006, in July 2007, in October 2007, and in June 2009. Since the last formal meeting of the Working Party, the Republic of Belarus has continued work on further harmonization of its foreign trade legislation and enforcement practice in accordance with the WTO rules and principles. In 2005-2012, Belarus submitted more than 15 information documents, related to the process of bringing of the national legislation into line with the WTO requirements (including information on changes in foreign trade regime, the information on customs administration, import licensing, state support of agriculture, protection of trade-related intellectual property rights, revised edition of the Factual Summary etc.

In June 2009, Belarus together with Kazakhstan and Russia decided to accede to the WTO jointly, i.e. as a Customs Union. Following this decision, three countries set up a Common Delegation to negotiate with the WTO on behalf of three countries. Since June 2009, a Common Delegation participated in series of consultations with the WTO Members, the WTO Secretariat where experts discussed approaches on joining the WTO.

In 2010 Belarus continued consultations with its major trading partners on accession to the WTO.

In August — September 2010 Belarus submitted to the WTO:

  1. an information document on changes in the economic legislation of the Republic of Belarus;
  2. texts of legal acts of the Republic of Belarus in English.

In June 2011 Belarus has circulated a revised Legislative Action Plan among the WTO Members.

On 4 April 2012 a meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on the Accession of Belarus to the WTO was held. During the session participants discussed issues related to the intergovernmental cooperation on WTO matters, consequences for Belarus of Russia’s accession to the WTO, preparation of documents within the bilateral and multilateral tracks of negotiations.

The new edition of the Factual Summary was circulated by the WTO Secretariat among the members of the Working party in November 2012. Later, in December 2012 the WTO General Council approved a new Chairman of the Working Party on accession of Belarus – Mr. Selim Kuneralp, the Ambassador of Turkey to the WTO.

So far, Belarus held 29 bilateral negotiations with countries of the Working Party that ended up in sealing the outcome protocols with 10 WTO Member countries: Armenia, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, India, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Panama, and Turkey. Besides, Belarus and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding which envisages mutual recognition of a market economy status. Belarus came closer with other countries on its future commitments in ensuring access to goods and services markets. Belarus also managed to narrow the list of demands by a number of the WTO Member countries that were unacceptable for Belarus.

Negotiations on state support to agriculture are held in the format of special multilateral meetings, at which parties should commit the maximum level of state support to agricultural sector provided in Belarus. Currently, the contracting parties decide on volume of state support.

Bilateral market access negotiations are ongoing. The Secretariat has prepared an updated Factual Summary on the basis of inputs submitted by Belarus, which was circulated in November 2012. Further, on the Members request, the Secretariat also circulated background country economic reports on Belarus by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In March 2013, a set of follow-up questions by Members, and replies by Minsk, were circulated by the Secretariat.