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Joining the WTO

On November 30th, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk is attending the 7th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Trade ministers from the 153 members of the WTO will be attending this conference. This blog describes how existing WTO members work with prospective members to help them join the WTO.

The WTO accession process prepares prospective members to join the global trade community through an organization dedicated to fair, transparent, rules-based trade. That trading system offers job-creating opportunities in the international marketplace to businesses and workers around the world.

Since the WTO replaced the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs in 1995, 25 countries and separate customs territories have completed the accession process and joined the WTO. Those Members include China, Nepal, Panama, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine. Currently 29 countries are working through the formal process of joining the WTO, including Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Russia and Serbia.

Every country or separate customs territory negotiates individualized terms for its accession with current WTO members. These terms specify how the prospective member will implement WTO standards, policies, and trade procedures. In addition, prospective members are expected to commit to specific market-opening actions, including addressing non-tariff barriers to trade.

WTO members apply special guidelines for the accession of countries that are designated by the United Nations as least developed countries (LDCs). The WTO also works to ensure that these prospective Members receive adequate technical assistance throughout the accession process. LDCs currently seeking WTO membership include Afghanistan, Bhutan, Laos, Samoa, and Yemen.

As a key member of the WTO, the United States plays an active role in accession negotiations. In addition to expanding the international trade community, the accession process presents a unique opportunity to expand market access for U.S. goods and services.

To follow the WTO Ministerial, please visit the WTO Ministerial page here.