The EU welcomed the accession of Montenegro, Russia and Samoa to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) this week, bringing the total number of Members to 157. The EU is also expected to formally conclude its bilateral negotiations with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on its accession to the WTO on 16 December.
“The EU has strongly supported the accession of these countries to the WTO” said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. “Their WTO membership improves the conditions for doing business with these countries and strengthens the multilateral trading system as a whole.”
The 8th WTO Ministerial Conference, taking place from 14-17 December 2011 in Geneva, will endorse the accession of Russia on 16 December and of Montenegro and Samoa on 17 December. On 16 December, the EU will sign bilateral deals with Russia and with Lao People’s Democratic Republic, whose accession to the WTO may become a reality in 2012.
The accession of Russia to the WTO is significant from both a multilateral and bilateral perspective. Russia is the biggest economy still outside the WTO, therefore both Russia and its trading partners will benefit from its integration into the global, rules-based system of trade relations. Russia’s accession to the WTO is especially important for the EU, Russia’s biggest trading partner. This step will give a major boost to further development of our economic relationship. Russia’s membership in the WTO will also prove an important stepping stone for deepening the bilateral economic integration, including through the conclusion of the ongoing negotiation on the New Agreement.
The EU also welcomes the accession of Montenegro to the WTO. Since it is a candidate country for EU membership, Montenegro’s WTO membership is an important milestone in the integration process with the EU.
Samoa is the second least-developed country whose accession is approved this year, following Vanuatu in October. The EU has supported Samoa along its accession path, accompanying the country in its internal reform process and taking a flexible approach in accordance with the specific principles agreed in the WTO as regards the accession of least-developed countries.
The signature of the bilateral Protocol between the EU and Lao People’s Democratic Republic on 16 December will represent a significant step closer to the accession of Laos to the WTO. The EU welcomes Laos’ reforms and progress throughout its accession process; they will build the long-term economic conditions for economic growth.
The Accession of Russia to the WTO is likely to take place before the end of August 2012, once Russia ratifies the negotiated results. The WTO decision to accept Russia amongst WTO Members concluded the 18-year long negotiations, the longest WTO accession process to date.
EU-Russia Trade in facts & figures
- Russia is the EU’s third largest trading partner after the US and China with an 8.6% share of EU trade in 2010.
- The EU is Russia’s biggest trading partner with a 45.8% share of its overall trade in 2010. Total trade with Russia amounted to €244 billion in 2010, compared to €183 billion in 2009. Imports from Russia increased by 31.4% in 2010, and exports from the EU to Russia went up by 38.2%.
- The EU is by far the most important investor in Russia. It is estimated that more than 75% of the investment stock comes from the EU.
- Due to WTO accession, the tariff changes alone will lead to additional EU exports to Russia worth nearly €4 billion per year. This amount does not include the import or export duties foregone. Further benefits will result from regulatory reforms and trade facilitation. Upon accession, Russia will introduce a more liberal market for service providers. Thus, benefits will be spread across key merchandise as well as services sectors as well as across the EU Member States.
Montenegro’s accession process started in 2004. Montenegro’s accession to the WTO was almost completed in December 2008, when Ukraine requested to open negotiations on a bilateral market access protocol. The request came days before the final Working Party meeting, when Montenegro had concluded all bilateral negotiations and when its consolidated schedules of commitments had already been circulated to WTO Members. Montenegro and Ukraine resolved the impasse by concluding a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) at the same time as they finalised their bilateral accession protocol to the WTO. The bilateral protocol and the separate FTA between Montenegro and Ukraine were signed on 18 November. Montenegro will have until 31 March 2012 to ratify the accession package.
EU-Montenegro Trade in facts & figures
- The EU is Montenegro’s main trading partner. Trade with the EU represented in 2010 (goods only) 56% of Montenegro’s exports and 38% of the imports (WTO figures).
- In 2010, foreign direct investments into Montenegro represented 17.5 % of the GDP from which 75.6% are from the EU.
- Montenegro’s main source of export revenues are tourism and metal industry.
- Montenegro is a candidate country for EU membership. Bilateral trade commitments between the EU and Montenegro are already embodied in the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA).
Samoa has been a candidate country to the WTO since 1998. Following approval of its accession at the WTO Ministerial conference, it needs to complete its ratification process until 15 June 2012.
Samoa Trade in facts & figures
- Samoa’s exports amounted to 72 million US$ and imports to 287 million US$ in 2008 ((sources: UN data, World Bank and IMF — 2008).
- Samoa’s major trading partners are Australia and New Zealand.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic applied to join the WTO in 1997. Since then, Lao PDR has undertaken significant progress in terms of reforms and legislative work in order to bring its trade regime in conformity with WTO rules. The EU has actively supported Lao PDR throughout this process by providing tailor-made technical assistance.
Laos Trade in facts & figures
- The EU is Laos’ 4th major trading partner, after Thailand, China and Vietnam.
- Laos’ exports to the world stood at €2.6 billion, while imports amounted to €1.5 billion.
- Laos’ trade with the EU increased by 11% over the period 2006-2010.
- Laos is the only ASEAN member not yet Member of the WTO.