Afghanistan hopes greater access to global markets through WTO membership
Afghanistan officially became the 164th member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on July 29, 2016.
WTO members officially approved Afghanistan’s accession at the Tenth Ministerial Conference in Nairobi on December 17, 2015 and the Protocol of Accession was signed between Afghanistan’s First Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Khan Rahmani and Director-General Roberto Azevedo.
Afghan officials are optimistic that the WTO membership would help improve rule of law and lay the foundation for healthy economic growth.
The Afghan business community believes WTO membership would enable Afghanistan to address its transit issues with the neighboring countries and find greater access to global markets.
Presently, Afghanistan relies on Pakistan for its imports and exports and faces many obstacles. The membership would enable Afghanistan to put pressure on Pakistan to stop illegal trade and transit activities through Afghanistan.
The membership comes as Afghanistan’s economy is shrinking due to decline in international investment and foreign aid. The GDP growth dropped to 2% in 2014 compared to 9% in 2012. Investor confidence has declined drastically. According to the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA), foreign direct investment dropped by 30% in the first half of 2015. In addition, capital flight and unemployment have led the country to a fiscal crisis.
Meanwhile, some international experts are skeptical about the concrete benefits the membership could confer as political uncertainty and deteriorating security situation continue to haunt the country.
If anything, the WTO membership does put pressure on Afghanistan to tackle corruption more robustly and work on reforms to maintain its good standing in the WTO.
Afghanistan is the 36th government and the ninth least-developed country (LDC) to join the WTO following accession negotiations since the WTO was established in 1995. Liberia, also an LDC, will meanwhile become the 163rd WTO member on 14 July. LDCs represent a fifth of the WTO membership.
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