Turkmenistan studies possibility of WTO membership

21 February 2017 17:03 (UTC+04:00)

By Kamila Aliyeva

Energy-rich Turkmenistan continues studying and considering the perspectives of the country’s potential joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said at the enlarged meeting of the Cabinet, Neutral Turkmenistan reported.

The Head of State outlined the top priorities of Turkmenistan's foreign policy for the next seven years.

The cooperation with the international financial and economic structures are now of great importance to the successful involvement of Turkmenistan in the global economy.

"In this aspect, we will continue to maintain a fruitful cooperation with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and other major financial institutions," the Turkmen President said.

Work has been underway on Turkmenistan's accession to the WTO since early 2013. A working group to study and analyze the economic implications of the country’s potential accession to the organization was set up.

The Commission examines such issues as the study of multilateral agreements on the trade of goods, which include the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, Agreement on investment measures related to trade, the Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures.

Also, the Safeguards Agreement, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, regulations in respect of the rules and procedures for dispute resolution are studied.

The European Union (EU) has offered Turkmenistan's accession to the WTO in January 2011. The energy industry, high-tech industries, transport, communications, banking and financial sectors are among the promising areas of cooperation.

WTO membership will open up broad opportunities for strengthening the competitiveness of Turkmenistan in international markets, the development of foreign economic relations and an increase of foreign demand for Turkmen products and services.

Some experts believe it would be uneasy for Turkmenistan to become a member of the WTO given the barriers for foreign investments in some fields of the economy, in particular, the natural gas sector. It is considered that the main problem which stands in the way of Turkmenistan's membership is the absence of a market economy. It can take years or even decades before Turkmenistan's membership would be approved.

At present, Ashgabat is negotiating with the EU and Azerbaijan on the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline construction project which may become a part of the transnational Southern Gas Corridor project.

Brussels hopes to diversify the sources of gas consumption through Caspian resources, most of which is ensured by Russia.

The advantages of joining the WTO for Turkmenistan include improvement of legislation and formation of stable trade and investment climate, a greater access to world markets, as well as creation of favorable conditions for improved quality of domestic goods and services.

Currently, the organization has 162 members, more than 20 countries have observer status as well as some 60 international organizations including UNO, IMF, and The World Bank. 

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Kamila Aliyeva is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Kami_Aliyeva

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