World Trade Organization (WTO)
WTO was created in 1995. The organization Headquarter locates in Geneva. As the youngest international organization WTO is a follower of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that founded in 1947. Currently, 164 countries of the world are members of WTO. Moreover, 20 countries and some international organizations have observer status in WTO. WTO accounts for more 98% of world trade.
WTO regulates trade relations among countries on the basis of multilateral trade agreements. Multilateral trade agreements comprise the normative juridical base of organization. These agreements regulate goods and services trade, intellectual property, survey of trade policy and solution of problematic issues.
The main principal of WTO is to liberalize international trade maximally and create the strong basis that lead to improve economic development and wellbeing of population.
The main duty of organization is to regulate trade-economic relations among member states based on Agreements Packet formulated by the result of Uruguay round negotiations on multilateral trade (1986-1994).
- Control on acceptance of multilateral trade agreements and implementation of accepted agreements that comprise juridical basis of WTO
- Organizing trade negotiations among countries
- Monitoring national trade policies
- Cooperation with other international organizations
- Assisting solution of trade disputes among member states
- Collecting, learning and presenting information on international trade and trade policy
Ministerial Conference is the highest authority. The countries meet at least once every two years to make decisions on principal issues and discuss problems related to Uruguay Round Agreements through ministerial conference, whose membership consists of all WTO members. The Ministerial Conference has responsibility to appoint General Secretary, create corresponding committees, and accept new members to organization and various responsibilities of the multilateral trade agreements.
Secretariat is an executive body of organization. Director General Roberto Azevedo (Brazil) leads the Secretariat from September 2013 who appointed by Ministerial Conference. The main duty of organization is to provide technical assistance to developing countries, various councils committees and analyse the world trade.
Moreover, the Council for Trade in Goods (Goods Council), the Council for Trade in Services (Services Council), the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Council) function.
WTO's agreements are discussed among all members, accepted by consensus rule and have to be ratified.
Azerbaijan and WTO
The appeal reflecting Azerbaijan's accession to WTO was submitted to the WTO Secretariat on June 23, 1997.
Multilateral negotiations as one of the most important issues for accelerating the process of Azerbaijan's accession to WTO are continued.
The 1st meeting of Working Party on Azerbaijan established on July 16, 1997 was held in WTO Secretariat in Geneva in 2002. The meetings of Working Party are held consistently since 2004. It was first time that two meetings of Working Party were held during 2008.
Thus, 5th and 6th meeting of Working Party were organized in Geneva on May 6 and December 11 of 2008, appropriately. At the end of 5th meeting decision was adopted on preparing of 1st generalized documents-Factual Summary. The document prepared by the WTO Secretariat was presented to Azerbaijan. The proposals and comments on the document were stated by the relevant bodies. Factual Summary was discussed at the 6th meeting of the Working Group. The latest version of document was distributed to the Group members for comment and was discussed at the 10th meeting.
The 10th meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of Azerbaijan on 7 December 2012 was the second WP meeting in 2012 (the 9th meeting took place in 24 February). The latest 14th meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of Azerbaijan was held on 28 July, 2017. Chief Negotiator and Deputy-Minister Mahmud Mammad-Guliyev informed WP Members that, Azerbaijan have adopted State Programs, Strategic Roadmaps to be implemented until 2020 to develop non-oil sector. He added that, trade facilitation, development of trade and logistics infrastructure is key priority for the country.
After the meeting questions form EU, US and Turkey were submitted to Azerbaijan and relevant works have been carried out for answering these questions about different trade related fields.
Alparslan Acarsoy, who was newly appointed as the Chairman of the Working Group established in the WTO Secretariat regarding Azerbaijan's membership in the WTO, visited Baku on April 26-28 and participated in the meetings held with the heads of relevant state and academic institutions. Also, on July 3-7, 2023, for the purpose of holding the next - 15th meeting of the Working Group, bilateral negotiations with several WTO members, relevant coordination work was carried out with the relevant institutions regarding the organization of the visit of the Azerbaijani delegation to the city of Geneva of the Switzerland Confederation.
Bilateral and multilateral negotiations
Azerbaijan Republic bilaterally negotiates with 22 members (U.S., EU, Canada, Japan, Norway, Russian Federation, Brazil, South Korea, Ecuador, Chinese Taipei, Sri-Lanka, India, Switzerland, Honduras, Indonesia, Malaysia, Republic of Dominican, Saudi Arabia, China, Viet Nam, Paraguay, Thailand) on accession process to WTO. During the negotiations are discussed the issues on market access of Azerbaijani goods and services, necessary measures are taken to protect important areas.
The first bilateral protocol on accession of Azerbaijan to WTO was signed with Turkey in 2007, with Oman and UAE in 2008 and with Georgia in 2010. The latest bilateral protocol was signed with Kyrgyz Republic on March 30, 2012. As a result the number of bilateral protocols on conclusion of bilateral negotiations in the framework of accession of Azerbaijan to WTO has reached to five. It should be noted that, the interest of Azerbaijan Republic was completely secured in all signed bilateral protocols.
On the basis of bilateral appeals the analysis is regularly carried out in the field of goods and services.
On December 12-16, 2022, bilateral negotiations were held in Geneva with Honduras, Sri Lanka and Thailand for goods, and with Saudi Arabia and Japan for services, as well as consultations on various trade-related areas with experts from the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
The multilateral negotiations are being held within the framework of the meetings of the Working Group on Azerbaijan's membership in the WTO, established in 1997 at the WTO. To date, the Working Group has held 14 meetings. In order to prepare for the next meeting, a number of changes were made to the draft report of the Working Group, based on the information received from the relevant agencies, the tables in the draft report were updated and accordingly submitted. In addition, a number of amendments to the legislation and other relevant documents were translated under the project "Strengthening the capacity of the Government of Azerbaijan in the WTO membership negotiations and other trade-related measures" implemented to support Azerbaijan's accession process to the WTO and submitted to the WTO Secretariat.
Bringing the national legislation into conformity with WTO requirements
39 normative legal acts were considered in the "Action Plan" approved by the 2 August 2006 signed No 1583 decree of the President of Azerbaijan. In Compliance with document drafts, laws on "Plant Quarantine" and "Plant Protection" lost force and 18 normative-legal acts out of 37 were adopted and entered into force.
Currently, projects of 10 documents were prepared and agreed with relevant authorities, as well as the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On Standardization” dated May 17, 2019 №1587-VQ and the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On Technical Regulation” dated September 30, 2019, №1669-VQ were adopted. The Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On Standardization” came into force on 14.10.2019, The Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On Technical Regulation” came into force on 27.05.2020 and The Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On Food Safety” came into force on 05.05.2022. Moreover, preparation of 10 projects is under consideration.
Activity of commission on preparation of Azerbaijan's accession to WTO
The commission on preparation work of Azerbaijan's accession to WTO was created by the 22 August 2003 dated order of Ministers Cabinet of Azerbaijan Republic to accelerate accession process to WTO. The new structure of the Commission on preparation work of Azerbaijan's accession to WTO was approved by order of the Cabinet of Ministers of Azerbaijan Republic dated June 28, 2019 numbered 472s. The structure of commission consists of deputy ministers of relevant ministries, leaders of state committees and agencies.
The head of the commission is the deputy prime minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mr. Shahin Mustafayev. 11 meetings of the Commission were held till now. The last meeting was held on February 5, 2010.
Enlightening the society
Taking into account the importance of informing and enlightening of community about accession procedures to WTO some measures were taken on this course.
By the participation of representatives of Ministry of Economy and various government agencies were organized roundtable events dedicated to accession to WTO and in cooperation with the "USAID Technical Assistance Project" 6 booklets were published about WTO within the framework of publications series of affiliation to WTO and distributed to universities, libraries, entrepreneurs and non-governmental organizations.
Moreover, www.wto.az website was created and guaranteed constantly placing of the most necessary information in this site. GATS enquiry point was created and legislation base related to this was placed at the wto.az website
Ministry of Economy and US International Development Agency (USAID) organized seminars for regions' entrepreneurs regarding "Azerbaijan's accession to the World Trade Organization and private sector" within the framework of "Azerbaijan Trade and Competence" Program of USAID in Shaki and Lerik in June-July of 2011 and in Gabala, Gakh and Masalli in May-June of 2012.
The "Azerbaijan and WTO" competition was held among young researchers in 2007 and among journalists in 2008.
Furthermore, by 23 January, 2018 the EU funded project of “Support and Strengthening Capacity of the Department for Trade Policy and WTO of the Ministry of Economy in the WTO Accession Negotiations” whose beneficiary is Ministry of Economy started to take actions. The aims of the Project are to help the Government of Azerbaijan for adjusting the trade related legislation to the WTO requirements, to support the representatives conducting the multilateral and bilateral negotiations on the accession to the WTO on behalf of the Republic of Azerbaijan and to raise the public awareness about WTO.” At the same time, the scientific article competition among students and masters on the subject "World Trade System and Azerbaijan: Current Situation and Prospects for Development" devoted to the 96th anniversary of National Leader Heydar Aliyev was organized.
With the support of the project, roundtables on fishery subsidies and current reforms in the WTO Dispute Settlement System were organized in August 2019 to raise awareness of trade issues. Also in November of the that year a seminar was held with the participation of foreign expert on the WTO Agriculture Agreement and the WTO's domestic support negotiations in agriculture at the Azerbaijan State Agrarian University. Brochures on WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and Trade Safeguard Measures (Antidumping, Countervailing and Safeguard remedies) were also prepared. Translation of WTO Agreements into Azerbaijani has been provided.
In early 2020 the project of "Support and Strengthening Capacity of the Department for Trade Policy and WTO of the Ministry of Economy in the WTO Accession Negotiations” was completed and a final conference was held with the participation of government agencies, non-governmental organizations, local businesses and representatives of the universities in order to review and present the obtained results to the public, on January 21.
On September 24, 2020, the EU-funded project of “Strengthening the Capacity of the Government of Azerbaijan for WTO Membership Negotiations and other Trade-Related Measures” whose beneficiary is Ministry of Economy was launched. The main goal of the project is to strengthen trade policy by supporting the Government of Azerbaijan in WTO accession and other trade negotiations, as well as to help expand the production and trade of goods.
In this context, the first meeting of the Project Steering Committee was held on November 23, 2020, preliminary meetings were held with relevant governmental and academic institutions and an action plan on the implementation of the project for the next six months was prepared, as well as the issues on internal support measures in agriculture and harmonization of telecommunications legislation with WTO requirements were discussed with experts by the participation of representatives of relevant ministries.
With the support of the project, roundtables on "Compulsory decisions and authorized economic operators", "GATS inquiry point", "Kazakhstan's experience in the abolition of VAT exemptions", "Creation of a website for trade safeguard measures", "Entry into force of intellectual property rights" were organized in I half of 2021. Brochures have been prepared on the overall project, in the field of intellectual property, on Free and Preferential Trade Agreements, and on trade safeguard measures. On June 21-25, 2021, a summer school on “International Trade at the Crossroads: Where to Go from Here?” was organized jointly with the ADA.
Analysis on the accession to the WTO
Azerbaijan's accession process to the WTO is regularly analyzed and the results are submitted to the relevant government agencies. Thus, within the framework of the EU-funded support project, analysis documents were prepared on the reforms carried out by a number of WTO members on their commitments. Recently, within the framework of the project covering 2021 which financed by the Asian Development Bank, a report was prepared namely “Impact Assessment of Azerbaijan’s Accession
to the WTO” and discussed with the participation of relevant government agencies.