NAIROBI — The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has just become the newest member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Ministers approved the country’s request for membership at a special ceremony held at the recently concluded WTO Tenth Ministerial Conference (MC10).
The ceremony was attended by World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevedo and Mohammad Khan Rahmani, the first deputy chief executive of Afghanistan.
The membership, ushered in by a unanimous vote from the ministers at the MC10, was a culmination of eleven years of negotiations. This officially makes Afghanistan the 36th least-developed country to join the WTO since its inception in 1995 and the 164th member of the organization.
The World Trade Organization is a global organization that has the mandate of regulating trade among its member countries. It does this by providing a platform through which countries can resolve disputes and negotiate trade agreements. This enables the smooth and free flow of trade which serves as a major tool for economic progress and sustainable development.
Rahmani remarked at Afghanistan’s accession ceremony that the membership was a significant step in the country’s journey of economic and political reforms.
So how exactly can Afghanistan benefit from its newly acquired WTO membership?
In creating an accession package, Afghanistan has been required to review its rules, policies and laws governing international and domestic trade in order to ensure that they comply with the WTO standards.
Furthermore, the Afghanistan Government with the assistance of developmental bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), USAID and the World Bank, has introduced major reforms in the customs department, its tax and tariff structure, its budget system and the banking sector.
There has also been general reconstruction of Afghanistan, with the World Bank sponsoring 22 development and reconstruction projects in the country totaling 1.25 billion. The projects are in the health, education, agricultural development, public administration and trade facilitation sectors.
All of this has been in a bid to meet World Trade Organization standards. A process that has no doubt stimulated sustainable economic growth in the country.
The new status of Afghanistan will give it access to international markets where it can participate in free, fair and non-discriminatory trade under the WTO framework. The nation will also have access to more affordable commodities within these new markets.
Quality improvement and standardization of Afghani trade products will come about as a result of increased export volumes as well as increased competition within international markets.
As an LDC within the WTO, Afghanistan can receive special and differential treatment from developed countries as stipulated under WTO law. This status will also enable Afghanistan to receive provisions that include allowing the country longer periods to implement agreements and commitments, putting in place measures to increase trade opportunities and supporting the construction of infrastructure required for WTO work.
As a member of the trade organization, the country will also have access to the WTO multilateral dispute settlement mechanism. This is a vital benefit as it gives Afghanistan power to contest unfair actions of larger trade players and have a stronger standing in trade-related disputes.
Rahmani is confident that his country will reap substantial benefits from its entry into the World Trade Organization. In his speech at the Afghanistan accession ceremony, he affirmed that trade-led growth will create new economic opportunities and jobs that will be key in reducing poverty and increasing prosperity within the country.