Event marks 5 years of Afghanistan’s WTO membership

A high-level session marking Afghanistan’s 5th anniversary of WTO Membership took place on 29 July, co-organised by the WTO Secretariat, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Government of Afghanistan. The session reviewed the results achieved in the first five years since Afghanistan’s accession to the WTO in July 2016, and commended Afghanistan for its sustained commitment to the WTO values and active participation in the work of the organisation Event marks 5 years of Afghanistan’s WTO membership.

Afghanistan acceded to the WTO on  July 29, 2016, as its 164th Member, following 12 years of accession negotiations. The high-level session was jointly opened by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, WTO Director-General; Mr Sulaiman Bin Shah, Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce of Afghanistan; and Ms Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of the ITC.

“Afghanistan’s membership journey has been a positive story,” DG Okonjo-Iweala said. “It is a story of hope: for the country, LDC governments in accession, and the WTO.  It is a story that confirms that the values of the multilateral trading system — openness, non-discrimination, transparency, good governance and the rule of law — can deliver for fragile and conflict-affected countries and for their people.  It is a story of the opportunities for these people to realize their economic potential and improve their livelihoods.“ Her statement is available here.

Deputy Minister Bin Shah provided an overview of Afghanistan’s accession and membership experience. “Our objectives of pursuing the WTO accession were to initiate and catalyse legal, regulatory, and institutional reforms and access international markets, diversify Afghanistan’s economy, create more jobs, promote international trade and transit, attract domestic and foreign investments, and develop a dynamic and innovative private sector“ he said. His statement is available here.

Ms Pamela Coke-Hamilton congratulated Afghanistan on reaching this milestone. She said: “ITC is a proud supporter and we have been with you every step of the way. Accession to the WTO helps Afghanistan put in place the necessary regulatory frameworks and brings economic empowerment within reach for millions.”

In addition to marking Afghanistan’s anniversary, the high-level session reviewed an impact study on “Afghanistan: A Retrospective on Five Years of WTO Membership”, commissioned by the ITC.

Dr Patrick Low presented his study on Afghanistan’s preparations for WTO membership and the negotiated outcomes that resulted in the country WTO membership.  The study also examines  Afghanistan´s experiences in the five years since joining the WTO, including its economic performance, the fulfilment of its obligations, and its participation in the work of the WTO, and opportunities and challenges relevant to its WTO membership. The study is available here.

Ambassador Ziwary of Afghanistan described the way forward for maximizing Afghanistan’s membership opportunities. “While the last five years were immensely important to us in terms of familiarity to the multilateral trading system, institutional capacity building and international engagement, it is time for Afghanistan to move to a more practical engagement for a tangible outcome-based participation, where we could see the direct result of our membership on our economy,” he declared.

Over 70 representatives of WTO members, international organizations and development partners participated and intervened in the high-level session, both in person and virtually, including the Advisory Centre on WTO Law (ACWL), the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), the g7+ Secretariat, the EU Delegation to Afghanistan, the US Department of Commerce, and others.

A video recording of the high-level session is available here.