Uzbekistan held the 6th Working Party meeting on the accession to the WTO with the support of UNDP

A high-level delegation of Uzbekistan led by Deputy Prime Minister Jamshid Khodjaev is visiting Geneva (Switzerland) during the week of 13 March to intensify the accession process to the World Trade Organization (WTO). UNDP continues to support the efforts of the Government of Uzbekistan to accelerate accession to the WTO.

March 15, 2023
Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

On March 14-15, Uzbekistan held the 6th Working Party meeting on the accession to the WTO, nine months after the last meeting. The event was chaired by the newly appointed Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Yun Seong-deok, and brought together 25 WTO Members to examine Uzbekistan’s foreign trade regime. Apart from multilateral negotiations, the meeting also served as an impetus for bilateral negotiations with interested WTO Members on market access for goods and services.

Before the meeting, Mr. Khodjaev also met with WTO Director-General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to reaffirm Uzbekistan’s commitment to join the multilateral trading system. Dr. Ngozi welcomed the efforts of Uzbekistan and mentioned WTO Secretariat’s readiness to facilitate the accession process.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Chairperson of the meeting noted that this was the first opportunity for Uzbekistan to hold face-to-face bilateral negotiations on market access for goods and services on the sidelines of Working Party meeting since the resumption of the accession process.

WTO Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang informed the participants that WTO Director-General was closely following Uzbekistan’s accession process and the readiness of Secretariat to provide full support along the way. “Director-General is optimistic about accelerating the WTO accession process of Uzbekistan, especially after President’s recent message to the Parliament on the need to speed up the negotiations to join the WTO”, he noted. To recall, on 20 December 2022, in his message to the Parliament, President Mirziyoyev mentioned the need to complete the main negotiations on the accession to the WTO and adapt the legislation as soon as possible.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

In his opening remarks, the Deputy Prime Minister mentioned the main achievements of his Government under Uzbekistan's Development Strategy for 2017-2021 and noted that reforms under the leadership of the President were continuing based on the Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026. In line with firm commitment to join the WTO, Mr. Khodjaev noted the readiness to intensify bilateral negotiations on market access for goods and services and harmonization of local legislation with WTO rules.

“While we are open to dialogue and personal approach with each interested WTO Member, market liberalization should not harm sensitive and emerging sectors of the economy”, he stressed.

A total of 25 WTO Members and 1 Observer welcomed Uzbekistan’s efforts to integrate into the multilateral trading system. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan praised the efforts and dedication of Uzbekistan and added that this accession will play a positive role at the regional level. As a recent WTO Member, representative of Kazakhstan also emphasized the need for a special accession approach for developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Following the welcoming speeches, the Working Party first reviewed the foreign trade regime of Uzbekistan based on a revised Factual Summary of Points Raised. After that, Uzbekistan informed the Working Party about the progress on the bilateral front. To date, bilateral negations with 31 WTO Members were ongoing and 3 completed. Finally, Uzbekistan was asked to provide detailed information on legislative developments in order to ensure that the applicant’s legislation corresponds to the WTO rules.

Considering the next steps forward, the Chairman of the Working Party encouraged Uzbekistan to expedite negotiations in order to convene the next meeting before the end of this year. He also called upon interested WTO Members to continue engaging with Uzbekistan on bilateral front.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

To become a full-fledged member of the WTO, Uzbekistan needs to complete the Working Party Report, conclude bilateral agreements with interested WTO Members on market access for goods and services, and bring the country’s legislation and practices in line with WTO rules.

Based on the outcomes of the 6th Working Party meeting, UNDP, within the framework of the Aid for Trade in Central Asia project will continue to support the Government of Uzbekistan in preparing required package of documents, analytical background, and accession processes in general.

The ‘Aid for Trade in Central Asia’ project is funded by the Government of Finland and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in partnership with the Ministry of Investments, Industry and Trade of Uzbekistan. The overall objective of the project is to support Central Asian countries in promoting inclusive and sustainable growth through promoting green value chains and increasing the competitiveness of economies.