WTO members expressed unanimous support for the resumption of Sudan’s WTO membership negotiations at the 3rd meeting of the Working Party on the country’s accession held on 31 January 2017 – 13 years after its last formal meeting.
“The WTO accession process has been an integral part of the economic reforms which the Government of Sudan has been pursuing from the highest-political levels. I was encouraged to hear that the WTO accession-related reforms have received strong support from both executive and legislative branches of the government of Sudan, as well as the private sector, working together towards the goal of a conclusion at the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11),” said Mr Ryosuke Kuwana of Japan, Chairperson of the Working Party.
“I believe that due to the size of Sudan and its strategic location bordering seven countries, Sudan has always been an important player; thus, its accession has broader implications to the region where the largest number of the acceding governments is concentrated in the African continent,” the Chairperson added.
Sudan’s Minister of International Cooperation, Mr Osman Ahmed Fadul Wash, underscored his government’s commitment to the accession process. He also called on members to accelerate negotiations in consideration of Sudan’s status as a least developed country (LDC). “We hope this meeting has contributed towards the acceleration and facilitation of Sudan’s accession to the WTO by the 11th Ministerial Conference next December in Buenos Aires,” he said.
WTO members welcomed the resumption of the accession process and supported Sudan’s domestic reform efforts through this process. In addition, members pledged to provide technical assistance to Sudan to expedite the accession process. Japan announced that its $100,000 donation to support Sudan’s accession efforts had just been approved in Tokyo while the Working Party meeting was in progress. China also reaffirmed its on-going support to Sudan under the WTO’s Least-Developed Countries and Accessions Programme (also known as the China Programme).
Bilateral market access negotiations
Sudan reported that it had concluded bilateral market access agreements with two WTO members. It also reported renewed engagement with interested members, based on revised market access offers on goods and services.
The Chairperson of the Working Party, Mr Kuwana, urged members to work constructively in view of Sudan’s wish to speed up negotiations.
“I would like to urge Sudan and all members concerned to continue bilateral market access negotiations constructively, with a view to early conclusion. In line with the ambitious target set by the Government to accelerate the accession negotiations, it is my hope that all bilateral market access negotiations would be concluded in the coming months,” the Chairperson said.
Foreign trade regime and WTO rules
Members of the Working Party reviewed the foreign trade regime of Sudan on the basis of the updated Memorandum on Foreign Trade Regime and other inputs provided by Sudan.
Members provided comments and questions on a wide range of issues pertaining to the country’s trade and trade-related developments.
Sudan also updated members on legislative developments and reaffirmed its commitment to bring its trade regime into conformity with WTO rules. Dr Babiker Mohamed Tom Bakhit Dafaalla, the representative of the Sudanese Parliament, assured the Working Party that the Parliament was ready to support Sudan’s WTO accession and would undertake any necessary legislative amendments and enactments for Sudanese laws and regulations to ensure their conformity with the WTO Agreement.
Sudan has been invited to submit inputs, such as responses to members’ additional questions, the Questionnaires on State Trading Enterprises and on Import Licensing Procedures, and the Checklist on Implementation and Administration of the Customs Valuation Agreement. Sudan’s delegation was also requested to update its Agriculture Domestic Support Tables to include information on 2016. Sudan was further invited to regularly update and revise its Legislative Action Plan.
The Chairperson said he would like to hold the next meeting in the second quarter of this year.