Kazakhstan applied for membership in the WTO in April 1996 (WT/ACC/KAZ/1) and circulated its Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime in September 1996 (WT/ACC/KAZ/3). Kazakhstan's Working Party met for the first time in March 1997. At the last meeting of the Working Party, held in December 2012, Members reviewed the revised draft Working Party report and identified remaining issues relating to Kazakhstan's compliance with WTO provisions. Kazakhstan outlined its legislative agenda to complete implementation of WTO provisions and indicated that it was prepared to address the outstanding issues that Members identified and move forward to make commitments.
In June 2009, Kazakhstan announced that it would join a Customs Union with Russia and Belarus. As a consequence, large portions of Kazakhstan’s trade regime have been re-established under Customs Union legal instruments, most of its customs practices amended, and its tariffs adjusted to match those of the Customs Union, which are those of the Russian Federation. Kazakhstan has continued to work bilaterally and multilaterally with WP members to complete its accession negotiations and resolve specific issues of bilateral interest.
During 2012, Kazakhstan made definitive progress towards completion of its WTO accession process. Market access negotiations were essentially completed for both goods and services, allowing for the development of consolidated schedules and their circulation for verification. During four meetings, WP Members developed the text of the revised and updated draft Working Party report, identifying outstanding multilateral issues for final discussion and resolution. These included agricultural supports and export subsidies, tax discrimination in favor of domestic agricultural goods, aspects of intellectual property protection, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, import licensing procedures for goods with encryption, and local content requirements in investment contracts and purchases by state owned enterprises. WP Members also initiated discussions for adjustments to the tariffs of the Common External Tariff intended to incorporate WTO tariff commitments negotiated by Kazakhstan.
The next Working Party meeting, expected during the first quarter of 20132, will continue to review Kazakhstan’s commitments in the draft Working Party report, monitor the completion of its legislative implementation, and finalize goods and services commitments in consolidated tariff and services schedules. In 2013, Kazakhstan hopes to complete its accession process. The United States actively participates in Kazakhstan's Working Party meetings.
Earlier in Kazakhstan’s accession process, the United States provided comprehensive technical assistance (through USAID), including a resident WTO advisor and WTO experts on short term assignment for drafting documentation submitted to the WTO, training, legal drafting, and institution building in the areas of customs, licensing, intellectual property, standards and sanitary measures. As Kazakhstan has moved closer to completing the accession process, these activities continue, but have been scaled back.