Bilateral Talks between Azerbaijan and EU on Joining WTO Likely to be Continued in Baku

Azerbaijan, Baku / Trend corr I. Khallilova / Azerbaijan and European Union have intentions to proceed with bilateral talks within the framework of joining the World Trade Organization by Azerbaijan in September, 2007, a source from the talks group reported on 29 May. The talks are likely to be held in Baku. The first meeting was held on 24 May in Brussels. The Azerbaijani talks group is headed by the Deputy Foreign Minister, Mahmoud Mammadguliyev.

The first meeting was of a familiarizing character, but all service fields were discussed. The EU recommends liberalizing the service market in Azerbaijan in order to stimulate foreign investments into the country and the opening of new jobs. EU also suggests opening markets in finance and communication fields, as well as the distribution service field.

There is a wish in the finance field to enter bank and insurance markets. It implies permission for opening of direct branches of foreign banks, which will stick to the rules of the main bank, and also elimination of limits at the insurance market. The Azerbaijani Government has intentions to require the WTO not to change the restrictions for participation of foreign capital in the Azerbaijani insurance market for the next ten years. Moreover, the WTO countries have the right to receive a postponement in fulfilment of several requirements, so that is why, for example Ukraine was offered five years for liberalization of participation of foreign capital at Ukrainian insurance companies.

Earlier, the WTO suggested Azerbaijan annulment of the item in the Law in Insurance indicating possible participation of foreign insurance capital with the ratio of 49% to 51%. Azerbaijani insurers do not consider the annulment possible for the time being, as liberalization will lead to absorption of Azerbaijani companies by world insurance giant companies.

EU suggests the liberalization of the telecommunications market. Earlier, the Unites States conditioned Azerbaijan for liquidation of the monopolistic position of the Aztelecom production association towards international communication links. Azerbaijan requested an eleven-year transition period. The United States and EU now suggest lifting the restriction maximum within three years.

Azerbaijan has completed talks with Oman, Georgia, and Moldova.

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