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Kazakhstan to Join WTO by End of 2012

Kazakhstan expects to enter the World Trade Organization (WTO) by December 2012, KazTAG reported Timur Sulejmenov, vice minister of economic development, as saying.

Negotiations on the post-Soviet republic’s WTO accession have been on-going for more than 14 years. According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the country applied for membership in the WTO in April 1996 and circulated its Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime in 1996. Kazakhstan’s Working Party met for the first time in March 1997.

In June 2009, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus decided to try and join the WTO as a single customs territory. Several months later, however, they announced that they would abandon that strategy to again apply as individual countries. WTO officials had indicated that the collective-entry strategy could significantly delay the accession process.

Astana subsequently announced plans to enter the WTO by the end of 2010, but later had to scrap its plans. Earlier this year, Kazkahstan’s cabinet announced that accession into the WTO is one of its priorities for 2011.

In late May, 2011, Zhanar Aitzhanova, the country’s top WTO negotiator, who also serves as minister of economic development and trade said that Kazakhstan officials are now working on finalizing the technical details of its bid.

“While there are some remaining issues like agriculture subsidies and livestock sanitation regulations to be worked out, on major issues we don’t have problems,” she said at a news conference at the Kazakhstan Embassy in Washington.

The protocol on the completion of the bilateral negotiations between the United States and Kazakhstan on Astana’s accession to the WTO was signed on September 21 by the two countries’ governments in Washington.

The signing of the protocol was preceded by technical consultations on the issue of access of U.S. service providers to the Kazakh market. This was one of the key conditions for Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO.

Of particular interest were the issues of supply of services for companies engaged in the production of oil and natural gas, telecommunications, construction, cross-border and financial services.

According to the minister of economic development and trade, “the reached agreements will create a more favorable climate and stimulate additional investment in the above-mentioned sectors of services, mainly in the processing and creation of new industries in Kazakhstan.” The United States is a key investor in Kazakhstan with foreign direct investment into the republic from 1993 to 2011 amounting to US$40 billion.

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