Members endorse Turkmenistan’s WTO observer status

At a meeting of the General Council on 22 July, WTO members agreed to grant Turkmenistan observer status in the organization. Turkmenistan, a state in Central Asia with a population of about 6.2 million, became the last former Soviet republic to establish a formal relationship with the WTO.

Turkmenistan submitted its request for observer status in May 2020, indicating its intent to initiate negotiations for WTO accession within a period of five years.

On behalf of all delegations, the chair of the General Council, Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand, welcomed to the meeting Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Turkmenistan in Geneva, Atageldi Haljanov, and invited him to take the floor as a new WTO observer government.

Ambassador Haljanov thanked members and emphasized the importance of the WTO as the platform for achieving greater integration of Turkmenistan into the global economy and trade. “The growing trends of economic globalization in the modern world have set for Turkmenistan the task to actively integrate into the world economy and the system of international economic relations,” he said.

Turkmenistan’s representative outlined the concrete benefits that future WTO membership would bring to his country, such as strengthening its foreign trade position and providing guarantees and transparency for investors and trading partners. Turkmenistan will fully seize the opportunities of observer status to familiarize itself with WTO rules and procedures, he added.

Other General Council matters

In other matters addressed at the General Council, Ambassador Walker said he was continuing consultations with members on the date and venue for the WTO’s next Ministerial Conference.

Amb Walker noted that while delegations have welcomed Kazakhstan’s renewed offer to host the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in June 2021, there were concerns expressed that the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic remained uncertain, and that any date set at this stage would need to be considered as a “working hypothesis,” subject to ongoing evaluation and review as conditions become clearer closer to the time.

MC12 was originally scheduled to take place in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan on 8-11 June 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Kazakhstan informed WTO members in late April that it remained ready to host MC12 in June 2021 in Nur-Sultan and asked the General Council chair to consult with WTO members on its proposal.

The chair also said that he was continuing consultations with members on the appointment of one of the current Deputy Directors-General to serve as acting Director-General from 1 September until the appointment of the new DG. Amb. Walker said he will consult further with a view to making the required designation within the coming days.

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo announced on 14 May that he would step down on 31 August, one year before the end of his second term. Under a 2002 decision on procedures for the appointment of the Director-General, the General Council shall designate one of the existing Deputy Directors-General to serve as acting Director-General in the event of a vacancy in the post.

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