UNECE and WTO Bring Central Asia Closer to the Global Rules-Based Trading System
UNECE, WTO and the Government of Turkmenistan brought together trade negotiators, vice ministers and other high-level officials from SPECA countries – Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan – as well as their neighbour, the Islamic Republic of Iran, to discuss four key issues: WTO accession; trade facilitation in the region; ways of fostering regional trade; and how countries and development partners can plan and implement the Sustainable Development Goals related to trade.
The discussions were held during the Trade Policy Forum and a meeting of the SPECA Thematic Working Group (TWG) on Trade from 11 until 13 May 2016, in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. The former US trade negotiator Ms. Cecilia Klein participated as a discussant, providing insight from her experience in several accession processes. The results of these discussions were synthesized in the Forum’s “Ashgabat Statement” and the SPECA TWG’s conclusions.
The Vice Minister of Economic Development of Turkmenistan, Mr Shamurad Mustafayev, stressed that the Forum marked a rapid acceleration in the cooperation between Turkmenistan, WTO, UNECE and the countries in the region on integration into the multilateral trading system under the WTO. The format of these events which consisted of an exchange of experiences among the countries, learning from each other on achievements and challenges in the processes of accession and WTO negotiations, instead of listening to external experts, was considered to be a major success and an important achievement by the heads of the delegations.
SPECA countries are at different levels of integration in the multilateral trading system under the WTO. Azerbaijan was represented at the Forum by its Chief Negotiator and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Mahmud Mammad-Guliyev, who discussed their experiences so far and plans for the future. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan shared their experiences in their completed accession processes, and also learned from each other, notably, on the preparations for implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
In the area of trade facilitation, participants reviewed a draft regional SPECA Trade Facilitation Strategy, proposed by Mr Saidrahmon Nazrizoda, First Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Tajikistan and Chairman of the SPECA TWG on Trade. After a lively debate, the participants agreed to work further on the development of this strategy. The participants supported several other initiatives fostering regional trade cooperation, including the establishment of a regional network of trade negotiators.
The SPECA TWG meeting agreed that the Group would work to support countries’ implementation of the three Sustainable Development Goals on trade (notably SDG 17.10 – promotion of the multilateral trading system under the WTO), as well as other SDGs related to trade. The Group will now work on a regional set of indicators for the achievement of the SDGs in trade. The UNDP Resident Representative in Turkmenistan, Ms Jacinta Barrins, presented the experience of planning, integrating into governmental development plans, and implementing the SDGs. It was agreed that the experience of UNDP in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan could be used as best practice models for other SPECA countries.
UNECE, WTO, UNDP, the UN Regional Centre for Central Asia, the World Bank, UNCTAD, and GIZ participated in the discussions. These and other development partners and international financial institutions are invited to support implementation of the decisions taken in Ashgabat on 11-13 May. Yet the most important achievement of the Forum and the TWG meeting, as underlined by Mr Andrey Vasilyev, Deputy Executive Secretary of UNECE, and Mr Chiedu Osakwe, Director of the WTO Accessions Division, was the model of SPECA countries learning from each other and establishing a regional trade policy cooperation mechanism – a model could be followed in other subject areas in which SPECA is active.
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