Azerbaijan expects next round of negotiations on accession to WTO in first half of 2010

Azerbaijan, Baku, Jan. 6 / Trend I.Khalilova /

By late January, the Azerbaijani government is likely to send to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat responds to questions addressed by member-countries under the negotiations on the country's joining this organization, Chief Negotiator and Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev said.

"The U.S. and the EU addressed the questions concerning the foreign trade regime, but they are so exhaustive that cover the interests of other countries," he added.

The July meeting of the working group with WTO [VII round of multilateral negotiations] committed the member-countries to present their questions to the secretariat of the organization until September 14.

In addition to the U.S. and the EU, the country also received questions and comments from Australia, concerning the schedule of domestic support and export subsidies that Azerbaijan is going to use, from Brazil - on tariff, South Korea - both on tariffs and on services.

"Azerbaijan seeks to join the WTO with the status of a developing country, which will allow the country to provide greater financial support to the agricultural sector. In this case the country will be able to keep subsidizing at the level of 10 percent of GDP produce in agriculture," he added.

At present, subsidies for Azerbaijan's agricultural sector are on average of 14-15 percent. Given the agriculture field's great need in support, Azerbaijan refuses to enter the WTO as a developed country, what the United States particularly insisted, as it will provide access to subsidies at the level of five percent.

According to Mammaguliyev, the restrictions are imposed on subsidies that deal with regulating prices of agricultural products, not on the reclamation and scientific and technical work.

He believes the next eighth round of negotiations on the country's joining the WTO could take place in the first half of 2010, but it is necessary to provide timely answers to questions, and to hold bilateral negotiations. The country should provide answers to the WTO Secretariat 1-1.5 months prior to the appointment of the next meeting.

In previous negotiations on international trade regime, some countries offered to reduce tariffs by setting them below 15 percent, which today are the maximum rate of customs duty in Azerbaijan. But in the proposals of the Azerbaijani government, mainly tariffs were set at 30 percent. [Azerbaijani-suggested tariffs are envisaged for unforeseen circumstances, in order to protect local production].

Tariff commitments are also key in the process of negotiations with the EU and the U.S. In addition to the tariff policy, their claims were related to the liberalization of services. They suggest opening up markets in the financial, communications sector, in the sphere of distribution service.

At present, Azerbaijan is in the process of negotiations with the United States, Japan, Brazil, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, European Union, Norway, India, South Korea, Taiwan Province of China. This year Switzerland joined the list in 2009.

Currently, negotiations were completed and protocols were signed with Turkey, the Sultanate of Oman and United Arab Emirates. The country is at the stage of signing protocol with Moldova, which still considers the document. Kyrgyzystan and Georgia have agreed, and this procedure could take place at the next meeting of the intergovernmental commission.

Azerbaijan has been represented in WTO as supervisor since 1997.

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