Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec.2 / Trend /
Leyla Abdullayeva, Trend analytical centre expert
Having great economic potential, Azerbaijan is considered to be the most developed country in the South Caucasus. However, in contrast to its neighbors, the country is still not a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is explained by a thorough preparation of the country to the process. Protection and promotion of national interests in the international trading system is more valuable for Azerbaijan than only the prestige of membership in this organization.
The regular, X round of multilateral talks on Azerbaijan's membership in the WTO will be held on December 7, the Chief Negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev told Trend on Thursday. To date, Canada, the U.S., the EU and Norway have expressed willingness to engage in bilateral talks with Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan's responsible approach to these talks is due to the country's aspiration to defend its position in the negotiations with the WTO member states and the organization itself. It is particularly important for the country to join the WTO as a developing country in order to receive ten percent benefits for agricultural subsidies. The WTO members want to make clear the level of liberalism and transparency in Azerbaijan's pricing policy, the tax system, the mechanism of agricultural subsidies and to clarify licensing issues. And, most importantly, they are interested in the changes that Azerbaijani government will introduce to the legislation on foreign trade, including the timing of their introduction.
Accession to the WTO has set the task for Azerbaijani economic legislation to meet WTO system rules to avoid any future problems. Currently, given that the oil and gas trade is not regulated by the WTO, and most of Azerbaijan's exports (91 percent) account for oil, gas and petroleum products, any difficulties with exports are not expected. As for imports, the removal of trade barriers will lead to an influx of not the best quality, but low cost imported goods into the country, which will hit the domestic non-oil production. Therefore, Azerbaijan will need an adaptation period to introduce protective mechanisms.
During this period, it will be possible to carry out measures to stimulate local entrepreneurship, improve product quality, and offer balanced concessions to trading partners in access to foreign goods, services and investments in the Azerbaijani market. For Azerbaijan, the WTO membership is dictated by the intention to reverse the current situation in the domestic economy, attract investments and enter the world market with non-primary production.