By Nigar Orujova
Azerbaijan will prepare new proposals on tariffs for industrial and agricultural products as part of the talks on joining the World Trade Organization, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev told Trend on June 24.
“The WTO member states, including the US, the EU countries and Norway, propose Azerbaijan, within their interests, to cut bound tariffs on goods imports. This includes a large number of industrial and agricultural products,” he added.
The bound tariff rate is the maximum customs duty rate on the import of certain goods, set within the country’s commitments at the WTO. The importing country cannot change the rate unilaterally.
The objective of the Azerbaijani government during the process of negotiating on WTO membership is to ensure maximum protection of national businesses and manufacturers.
Earlier in the process of WTO accession, Azerbaijan proposed an average primary-bound tariff rate (to be applied after the entry into the organization) of 13.2 percent and an average final-bound rate 11.7 percent after a transitional period.
Moreover, the average-bound tariffs on agriculture was proposed by Azerbaijan to be at 14.1 percent, while in developed countries, the figure is 22.8 percent, 12.7 percent in developing countries, and 15.4 percent in underdeveloped countries.
In Azerbaijan, the average tariff stands at 9.4 percent, against 9.6 percent in the developed world, and 17.7 percent in the underdeveloped).
Mammadguliyev went on to add that as part of preparation for the next round of talks on accession to the WTO, the Azerbaijani government should also introduce a new list on domestic support for agriculture, taking into account the changes in the country’s agro-industrial sector in 2012-2014.
“Given that the preparation of all these documents will take time, the next meeting of the working group, the bilateral negotiations with the WTO member states and the multilateral meeting on the agriculture can be held in autumn in the best case scenario,” the deputy minister said.
Previously, it was expected that the bilateral and multilateral negotiations would be held in the summer. The last meeting was held in Geneva this March.
Mammadguliyev earlier said that the main topic of discussions certainly was the issue of domestic support to the agricultural sector.
“Azerbaijan once again stressed how much it is important for us to develop the agriculture as a main sphere of the country’s non-oil sector,” he noted.
The deputy minister added that Azerbaijan reiterated its position on the issues related to the support to the agricultural sector.
“A number of countries said they understand the importance of developing the agricultural sector in Azerbaijan, while some countries believe that we provide this sector with very large volume of subsidies,” he said.
Mammadguliyev added that this amount is fully consistent with the provisions of the WTO agreement on agriculture, applicable to developing countries.
According WTO provisions, a country with the status of a developing country can qualify for subsidies at a level of 10 percent of GDP. This figure stands at five percent for developed countries.
For Azerbaijan, the issue of the status of the country is key during the multilateral negotiations on the WTO membership conditions. Azerbaijan, claiming the status of a developing country, justifies the fact that despite the rapid development of the economy, the country still has one million refugees and internally displaced persons.
Mammadguliyev noted that Azerbaijan agreed to continue negotiations in this direction.
Azerbaijan began consultations with the WTO in 2004. The working group on Azerbaijan at the WTO Secretariat was established on July 16, 1997.
Currently, Azerbaijan is in the process of negotiations with the U.S., Japan, Brazil, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, European Union, Norway, India, South Korea, Taiwan Province of China, Canada, Switzerland, and Honduras to join the WTO.
Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar
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