The Uzbek government will be better equipped to draft the documents and develop its negotiating positions as required by the WTO accession procces
The executive and legislative branches wil be better informed to develop specific sectoral laws and regulations as needed to comply with Uzbekistan's new international commitments
The policymakers' understanding of the WTO accession process and it's legal framework will be reinforced
Uzbekistan will have an increased capacity to comply with WTO Rules, in particular with regards to the SPS/TBT & Trade Facilitation Agreements of the WTO
ITC's work will increase the business sectors - including women's associations - awareness of the WTO accession process and benefits
A 42-strong delegation headed by Uzbekistan’s recently-appointed chief negotiator, Mr. Azizbek Urunov, traveled to Geneva for the 7th Working Party Meeting (WPM) at the World Trade Organization on 16 November 2023. It was the second such meeting this year to advance Uzbekistan’s accession – testimony to renewed momentum as the country doubles down on its commitment to join the multilateral trading system established under the WTO. The 6th WPM was held in March 2023. The WPMs are key signposts in the journey to WTO accession. At these meetings acceding countries negotiate the terms of their trade policy regime on which they will join the WTO. This multilateral track of negotiations is backed by the meetings taking place at the bilateral level to negotiate the level of market access openness. The market access schedules of commitments will fix the conditions for imported goods and foreign services supplied into Uzbekistan’s market. In this manner transparent and predictable market conditions are created. This helps boost confidence and trust in a country’s economic environment. In turn, this can help improve trade and investment flows to boost growth and development. ITC helped prepare negotiators The ITC propped up preparations ahead of the 7th WPM. It helped prepare answers to the questions raised by WTO Members at the previous WPM. This formed the basis for the agenda of the latest WPM. The ITC also facilitated the participation of several officials of Uzbekistan’s delegation in the multilateral and bilateral negotiation rounds and sponsored Russian interpretation that was requested for the WPM. The delegation’s visit to Geneva gave opportunity for Mr. Urunov to meet with Ms. Pamela Coke-Hamilton, the ITC’s Executive Director, after the WPM. They discussed Uzbekistan’s future support needs. The ITC aids Uzbekistan’s accession process with an array of technical and capacity-building activities. This is funded by the European Union under the project Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO. The ITC also buttressed the technical expertise of Uzbekistan’s negotiation team ahead of the meeting. Two experts traveled to Tashkent in October to help prepare the negotiators for the market access negotiations, both in goods and services. This equipped the team to shoulder this crucial component of the negotiations.
A niche workshop series for technicians helped build crucial knowledge to adopt international standards. International standards are an important signpost for global traders. Set by relevant international bodies, they ensure the safety and quality of products and help advance more efficient and cost-effective practices. The more international standards are used and recognized globally, the more they help reduce the burden of unnecessary cross-border regulations. Moreover, if a country follows them, its producers can trade on global markets. In the area of technical regulations, WTO Members are committed to comply with the rules and requirements under the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement. This means when Uzbekistan becomes a WTO Member it effectively has to comply with global technical standards. Specialized workshop series The ITC held a workshop series between July and October 2023 to develop the technical know how of relevant agencies in Uzbekistan dealing with such matters. Five modules were offered, covering key aspects in the field. Different international standards and their scope of application were under scrutiny in the first module, followed by a module on the benefits of standards and how they can advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The third module was dedicated to the European standardization system, as the EU is an important trading partner of Uzbekistan. The fourth module unpacked the process of adopting international standards. And the last module treated good practices in developing standards, and the financing of national standards bodies. The latter are agencies that develop national standards. As WTO Members are expected to 'play a full part, within the limits of their resources' in standard setting processes by international standardizing bodies, national standards bodies help ensure a country’s compliance with this requirement. However, the legal status of these bodies can vary from state-owned to fully private. This means their revenue models also vary. Using case studies, the last leg of the training unpacked the financing models of national standards bodies and explained intellectual property rights related to standards. Participants also came to grips with the six principles that guide the development of international standards and were introduced to the WTO ISO Standards Information Gateway. The latter is a list of all standardizing bodies party to the TBT Agreement’s Code of Good Conduct, and with information on their work programmes. Just under 300 technicians attended the various modules of the workshop series, with some attending multiple modules. The results of pre- and post-workshop assessments for participants who took them showed an 84% improvement in their knowledge about the adoption of international standards. Technical agencies across the spectrum benefited from the training, including the Agency for Technical Regulation, the Institute of Standards and the National Institute of Metrology. University professors of relevant departments also had opportunity to attend. The workshop series was funded by the European Union under its project Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO.
The terms set for access to Uzbekistan’s market will form the cornerstone of its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Merchandize trade makes up more than 54% of Uzbekistan’s gross domestic product, according to data from the World Bank’s World Integrated Trade Solution database. This means the concessions and commitments it negotiates in the WTO in the area of goods will largely shape Uzbekistan’s economy when it joins the world economy. While there has been an exponential rise in services and technology-oriented issues in the global trading system, basic access of goods to markets remains the bulwark that anchors a country’s accession agreement with other WTO Members. Market access espouses the fundamental principles upon which countries agree to trade with one another under WTO rules. These staple elements include predictability, transparency, and fair competition that does not favour some countries over others. They are all aimed to advance growth-oriented economic reform and thereby contribute to a country’s development. Central to market access is the schedule of commitments, which an acceding government negotiates with its WTO partners before joining the organization. This fixes the tariffs levied when goods are imported into the country. Chief negotiator participates To unpack this cornerstone aspect of the WTO negotiations, the ITC organized a three-day training workshop for officials and trade associations in Uzbekistan. The workshop took place in Tashkent from 4 to 6 October and was opened by the special representative of the President of Uzbekistan on WTO issues and chief negotiator, Azizbek Urunov. Participants were given an overview of the WTO’s origin and functioning. And then the first two days treated fundamental elements such as the schedule of commitments and how the bilateral negotiations to establish market access to goods work. The last day took a hybrid format, which enabled the participation of remote parties, including key representatives of Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. They gave valuable practical advice on their countries’ experience of negotiating market access and how to handle specific challenges. WTO representatives also participated and gave an update of the state of play of Uzbekistan’s accession process. Participants in the workshop included representatives of the presidency, and the Ministries of Investment, Industry and Trade; of Justice; of Economy and Finance; and of Agriculture, as well as relevant state agencies such as the Customs Committee, the Competition Promotion and Consumer Protection Committee. Representatives of key industry associations also benefited from the workshop. The training was funded by the European Union under its project Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO.
Technicians come to grips with pest risk analysis, rules on pesticide use Few trade areas are as complex, yet key to consumer protection as rules on food imports. The standards and requirements have to strike a fine balance: ensuring food is safe without being overly protectionist, thereby harming other countries’ exporters. Rules on how to develop standards for human, animal and plant health while not impeding trade, are set out in the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS). They must also follow international standards such as those of the International Plant Protection Convention. Uzbek technical experts were trained on key aspects of these requirements to equip them to implement the rules when the country joins the WTO. Three seminars, held in Tashkent, were organized with funding from the European Union under the project Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO. Two seminars were on the topics of pest risk analysis (12-16 June), and how pesticides are used (19-23 June). Under the lens were the rules and practices of the European Union, an attractive market for exports from Uzbekistan.The seminars focused on practical group work. With pest risk analysis, attendees developed scenarios to assess pests populations, such as those of melon and cherry flies, and the pomegranate fruit pest. They also learned the ropes on registration procedures for pesticides and rules on their marketing. Transparency is key A third workshop (20-24 June) showed how to set up and operate an SPS National Enquiry Point (NEP) and a National Notification Authority (NNA). These are mandated for WTO members and ensure transparency on SPS measures. The NNA notifies other countries about changes to SPS measures; the NEP answer questions other WTO members might have about SPS measures in place. The session also introduced attendees to the WTO’s new ePing platform for measures on SPS, which enables the digital tracking of measures. Attendees praised the practical use of the training. Mamatkulov Zokirjon, lead specialist of Uzbekistan’s Agency for Technical Regulation, said it was ‘a great resource to obtain the necessary information.’ Thirty-eight Uzbek officials from agencies involved in SPS matters benefited, including the Agency of Plant Protection and Quarantine, the Sanitary Epidemiological Welfare and Public Health Committee and the State Committee of Veterinary and Livestock Development, About the project The ITC is the implementing partner of the European Union’s Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO project. The five-year initiative supports Uzbekistan's negotiations at the WTO and helps develop technical skills to implement its rules. The project’s ultimate objective is to contribute to the country’s economic development.
A workshop helps navigate technical requirements on products for exports. These measures include technical requirements on goods – from kettles and toasters to chain saws and tractors – to vouch for their quality and safety. Packaging, labelling and information about product use are some non-tariff measures, known as technical barriers to trade (TBT). The WTO’s TBT Agreement deals with these issues. In preparation for Uzbekistan’s WTO accession, officials dealing with technical regulations received training on how to navigate the European Union’s TBT rules. The workshop was held from 20 to 22 June in Tashkent. It introduced the EU’s framework on non-food products: the General Product Safety Directive. Attendees learned where to locate the latest version of the legislation. Conformity assessment Subsequent sessions focused on conformity assessment and the EU’s web-based Rapid Alert System (Safety Gate), which ensures swift action to protect consumers. The workshop also addressed products with higher-risk features, notably mechanical and electrotechnical goods. The training was facilitated by the ITC with European Union funding under the Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO project. Feedback was positive. One of the attendees found valuable that the training pointed out which EU requirements are mandatory and which voluntary. Another attendee appreciated the sharing of materials and websites where information about EU technical requirements could be found. TBT mission to Geneva, Brussels The project also facilitated a mission for Uzbek officials. Three officials attended a TBT Committee meeting in Geneva and met with the Swiss TBT National Enquiry Point and National Notification Authority. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) were also visited. The delegation then travelled to Brussels to meet staff of the EU’s National Enquiry Point to discuss the functioning of the facility. Attendants at the TBT training in Tashkent.Photo by ITC About the project The ITC is the implementing partner of the European Union’s Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO project. The initiative supports Uzbekistan's WTO negotiations and helps develop skills to implement its rules. The project aim is to contribute to the country’s economic development.
Europe Day was celebrated in Tashkent with a fair that showed how an EU-funded project supports Uzbekistan’s accession process to the World Trade Organization. Europe Day celebrates peace and unity within the European Union, which marked the occasion on 6 May in Tashkent with a festival that showcased EU-funded projects. The fair displayed cooperation between the EU and Uzbekistan, and the sharing of technical expertise. Ambassador speaks in front of Europe Day bannerEU Ambassador Charlotte Adriaen was the keynote speaker at the Europe Day celebrations.Photo by EU Delegation, Tashkent The EU-funded project on Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO, implemented by the ITC, used its stand at the fair to share with the public and the media the project’s progress. As Uzbekistan’s World Trade Organization accession advances, it’s important for the public to understand what to expect when the country integrates into the global economy. Visitors learned about key WTO topics, such as trade facilitation and rules that cover goods and services, agriculture, intellectual property, and more. Information brochures and videos were available. Preparing for new opportunities For WTO membership to benefit the country, Uzbekistan’s enterprises also need to understand what could happen when the country opens its borders and learn how to tap into the opportunities this could create for them. With private sector buy-in, integration in the global economy can bolster economic growth and development in the country. WTO membership promotes economic stability through transparent economic and trade policies. This prevents members from imposing arbitrary trade barriers on one another, which also helps to lower the prices of goods and services for consumers. A stable business environment becomes growth-directed through greater market access and predictable prices. About the project The ITC is the implementing partner of the European Union’s Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO project. The five-year initiative seeks to support Uzbekistan's development plans to modernize its economy by leveraging its WTO accession process. The overarching objective of the project is to contribute to the country’s economic development.
With Uzbekistan poised to join the global economy, WTO membership can also be a springboard for regional integration among Central Asian countries. Economic cooperation between Central Asia’s five ‘Stans’ – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – could be bolstered if the republics harmonized their trade rules and procedures. This emerged at the Astana International Forum, a high-level event that took place on 8 and 9 June in Astana, Kazakstan. A side-session on ‘Central Asia in the Multilateral Trading System: The Case For WTO Accession’ discussed integration between the ‘Stans’ and how this can bolster regional resilience and connectivity. The session was jointly offered by the Government of Kazakhstan, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC). Greater predictability in foreign markets access, which comes with WTO membership, will help entice foreign businesses to invest in the region. This can also enhance the transfer of technical know-how, the panelists explained. Maika Oshikawa, Director of the Accessions Division at the WTO, moderated the discussion. Two top officials from Kazakhstan and Tajikistan joined the panel to share their countries’ experience of joining the WTO. Ambassador Zhanar Aitzhanova is the permanent representative of Kazakhstan to the WTO. He was the country’s chief negotiator during its accession process. Nuriddinzoda Ahliddin is the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Tajikistan. They gave assurances of support to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan during their accessions. Azizbek Urunov, the Special Representative of the President of Uzbekistan on WTO issues, is the country’s chief negotiator. He was joined by Rahimberdi Jepbarov, Chairman of the Board of the State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs of Turkmenistan. They shared updates on their countries’ accession processes and reconfirmed their commitment to move towards WTO membership. Daria Karman, ITC Associate Programme Officer of Trade Facilitation and Policy for Business, provided an overview of the trade relations between Central Asian republics. Trade among CARs still modest She showed that trade between the Central Asian republics (CARs) comprises a modest 10% of their total trade, while China, the European Union, and Russia make up the bulk of their trade. Two thirds of the CARs’ imports and 57% of their exports belong to these three partners. Greater regional integration can be facilitated by accession to the WTO. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are already members of the global trade body. Turkmenistan’s accession process has only just started, while Uzbekistan’s journey to join the WTO is well underway. Both of these accession processes are assisted by the ITC, with funding from the EU. About the project The project Facilitating the Accession of Uzbekistan to the WTO, implemented by ITC, assists Uzbekistan to formulate its negotiating position. It also helps with the review of relevant laws and policies to comply with WTO requirements, builds technical capacity so officials will be able to administer WTO requirements, and raises awareness among private companies and civil society about the impending WTO membership. Support with building capacities of Turkmen government officials to start accession negotiations is provided under the regional R4TCA initiative that is implemented in five Central Asian countries, including Turkmenistan. These projects aim to support Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan’s development plans to modernize their economies by leveraging the WTO accession to contribute to their economic development.
With the assistance of the International Trade Centre (ITC), seven Uzbekistan government officials participated in a range of trade-related courses offered by the World Trade Institute (WTI) during its Winter Academy between January and February 2023, in Berne, Switzerland. Attendance of the course formed part of ongoing support offered to Uzbekistan by the ITC with funding from the European Union (EU) to boost expertise and know-how as the country negotiates to become a World Trade Organization (WTO) member. The seven senior officials represented three state departments – one on tariff and non-tariff regulatory measures and the other two dealing, respectively, with cooperation with the WTO and with CIS countries. They participated in Winter Academy courses offered in their areas of work. The courses were, namely, on the WTO Law on Border Measures and Trade Facilitation; Anti-Dumping and Safeguard Measures; Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, and a course on the Law and Policy of Trade in Services. The courses were offered by longstanding WTO specialists. The knowledge will enable the officials to practically apply WTO rules and requirements in their areas of responsibility once Uzbekistan is a member of the WTO. Chance to meet peers Apart from the substantive value of the courses, the officials’ participation in Berne also meant they were able to meet relevant international experts as well as peers from other countries in their areas of work. The training was facilitated under the EU-funded project ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’, of which the ITC is the implementing partner. The WTI is internationally acknowledged as a multidiciplinary academic centre focusing on advancing graduate and post-graduate education about the function and effects of global trade. The institute has been involved in other efforts to build trade-oriented knowledge in Uzbekistan. Apart from offering online and on-the-ground training to Uzbekistan’s officials, the WTI was also commissioned by the ITC to develop a tailor-made trade law course that will be taught by the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Uzbekistan (UWED) based in Tashkent.
Businesses sometimes fear negative effects when a country integrates into the world economy, but usually the move helps to unlock economic potential by stabilizing commerce through a transparent and predictable business environment. Explaining the effects therefore helps to demystify the process and shows business operators how to prepare themselves for the accession. As Uzbekistan progresses with its negotiation to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), private sector buy-in would be integral to ensure successful integration in the world economy. WTO membership will bring about significant changes to the country’s business operating environment and it is vital that the country’s business sector understands the effects and possible benefits that can be reaped from participating in the global economy. Towards this aim, a second series of private-sector-directed trainings was organized in four regions in Uzbekistan by the International Trade Centre – this time on the WTO disciplines governing agriculture. Important sector for Uzbekistan The sector is an important one for Uzbekistan. It contributes almost a quarter of Uzbekistan’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and is also the biggest employer, with fully 28 per cent of the labour force working on farms. Moreover, by FAO measure, the sector is also more effective than any other in ameliorating poverty and inequality. Agriculture is also strategically important for other WTO members because the sector has implications for countries’ food security. As such, agriculture is hived off under a separate agreement and has its own intricate rules, notably on subsidies. A separate set of requirements under the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures is solely applicable to agriculture as it concerns the application of food safety and animal and plant health regulations. The training, provided by an international WTO expert, took place from 11 to 18 January in the Khorezm, Kashkadarya and Samarkand regions as well as in Karakalpakstan. It commenced with an overview of the WTO’s history and contextualized the creation of the Agreement on Agriculture. The measures countries employ to protect their agricultural sectors against imports were explained. The most common are tariffs levied on imports. It is these duties that the WTO system originally aimed to cap and gradually reduce to bring down the cost of traded goods over time and ensure that they are applied in a fair manner that does not favour some trading partners over others. The agriculture subsidy ‘boxes’ made easy The WTO’s very arcane subsidy categories were unpacked. Called the ‘green box’, ‘amber box’ and ‘blue box’, these categories indicate which kind of subsidies are forbidden under WTO rules and which allowed. Special and differential treatment was touched upon. Under this principle, it is ensured that developing countries have easier tariff reduction regimes for a softer transition than those set for the developed countries. This allows them to maintain higher levels of duties because of their sensitivities. The training was attended by 90 participants from agricultural producer companies, agricultural export companies, as well as regional plant protection and quarantine administrations, and local governing administrations. Subsequent modules will be presented in March and April and will cover other staple agreements. The SPS Agreement will come under the lens; non-tariff measures will be discussed – these so-called technical barriers to trade are covered under the TBT Agreement and include measures such as quotas, tariff-rate quotas, licensing requirements and other standards that countries deploy and may be deemed to hassle imports. And, finally a module will be offered on compensatory measures available to Uzbekistan in case it faces up to subsidized imports or if it believes imports are dumped in its market. The latter are contained in the Anti-Dumping Agreement, while the former forms part of the Agreement on Subsidies and Counterveiling Measures. The training was organized by the ITC with funding from the European Union under the Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO project envelope. The five-year project supports Uzbekistan's development plans to modernize its economy by means of its WTO accession process. One of the key pillars of the project is to ensure that the private sector, including women’s business associations, are sufficiently familiarized with the effects WTO membership will have on them and how they can participate to benefit.
A tailor-made WTO law course to be taught at Tashkent university will bolster long-term institutional capacity. Uzbekistan is negotiating to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). To ensure beneficial membership in the long run, there’s a need to build institutional knowledge to apply national laws and policies for the country to adhere to WTO rules. Specialized university education helps develop a new generation of policymakers, lawyers and economists with a deep understanding of international trade. Even at the global level, only a select number of universities can teach the intricacies of international trade, law and economy. The University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Uzbekistan (UWED) in Tashkent has recently joined their ranks. A course unique in Central Asia The respected World Trade Institute (WTI) in Berne, Switzerland, has developed a dedicated academic course in WTO law for UWED’s graduate andpostgraduate law programmes. The course was commissioned by the International Trade Centre (ITC) as part of a European Union-funded project to buttress Uzbekistan’s capacity and know-how in international trade in the lead-up to it joining the WTO. The course will embed trade law knowledge in an academic programme. Students will be prepared as future officials, lawyers and policy practitioners, extending the project support on WTO-related matters in the long run. Peter van den Bossche, Director of Studies of the WTI and a respected former judge of the WTO’s Appellate Body, said the course was unique in Central Asia. “The course will give students in-depth knowledge of WTO law and policy,” he said. “And obviously, that will benefit the students enormously when, upon graduation, they start working for the Uzbek government. They may, of course, also go into private practice, or consult companies or seek a career at international organizations.” For students and state officials The work unfolded in three stages, explained Rodrigo Polanco, the WTI’s Academic Coordinator of Advanced Masters Programmes, who headed the work on the course. As a first step, the WTI developed a complete two-semester WTO law curriculum of modules, comprising the study materials, slide presentations as well as assessments. The WTI then worked with the UWED to train the trainers -- that is, to equip lecturers of the university’s law department to teach the materials. As a further aid, bilateral meetings with lecturers guided them on how to make the lessons accessible both to students and government officials. The latter are an important target market for the course, because officials working in areas related to trade issues will have to hit the road running once Uzbekistan becomes a WTO member. Online guest lectures open to students, practitioners and members of the government introduced advanced trade law topics to a wider audience, Polanco said. “The goal is immense, and thanks to the participation in this project, we have the opportunity to attract not only our experts but also expertise recognized by the international community. Our university is making a unique contribution by offering this subject," noted Umid Yakubhodjaev, dean of the faculty at UWED. UWED makes unique contribution “The subject of WTO Law has now been introduced as a major subject in the Faculty of International Law, and was subsequently also added to the master’s programme,” added Yakubhodjaev. “The course provided a deeper understanding about the importance of joining the organization on conditions that are favorable for Uzbekistan,” said Asilbek Abdug'aniyev, a fourth-year student. Another postgraduate student, Abror Muhammadjonov, said the lectures provided useful information about the benefits of WTO accession. “It was very valuable to learn about this.”
The benefits of World Trade Organization (WTO) membership are well-established. Transparent rules and fair competition provide greater access to markets and promote economic stability and a predictable business environment. This helps to stimulate investment and connections in global value chains that drive economic growth. But WTO accession is followed by structural changes that businesses must bridge. WTO membership creates fears about competition from imports, loss of government benefits, and job displacement. Women entrepreneurs briefed on WTO benefits The mission by the International Trade Centre (ITC) from 22-25 November set out to demystify WTO membership and dispel misconceptions about the effects from liberalization. Two high-level meetings were held – one with officials from the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade (MIFT), the second with businesses. The plenary session for government officials unpacked Uzbekistan’s negotiation process. The session spelled out WTO rules and processes, drawing examples from peer countries such as Kazakhstan. Subsidy regimes and export promotion were discussed to ease fears that membership would result in the total withdrawal of government support. 24 representatives from MIF joined the workshop. The second workshop explained what business opportunities could open for an audience of 55 women entrepreneurs from the Businesswomen’s Association, the Center for Women Entrepreneurship in Tashkent and an array of micro, small and medium-sized business enterprises. Ms Soima Tillayeva, a business owner and seamstress who attended, said: “The workshop left a very good impression on me. I understood that we should actively develop our businesses by improving quality and model variety, as exported products will be subject to international standard requirements. After attending this workshop, I might consider expanding my business to be able to supply to international markets.” Learning about health regulations The mission also sought to cement ties with authorities and laboratories that work on the quality and safety of farm products intended for export. Under the WTO these are regulated by the WTO’s SPS Agreement. SPS stands for sanitary and phytosanitary issues, the technical terms for animal and plant health. The training was meant to facilitate Uzbekistan’s compliance with these rules. A first training reiterated compliance requirements by reviewing staple concepts: scientific justification, harmonization, risk assessment and transparency. The workshop explained how Uzbekistan can benefit from technical assistance and the principle of special and differential treatment, to help bridge adjustment to WTO rules. A second technical workshop on export quality focused on standards and technical regulations. This session looked at the national quality infrastructure, which establishes and implements standardization. 38 representatives from laboratories received training on how to test and certify agricultural goods so that they meet international standards. Mr Abdurauf Yusubakhmedov, a laboratory asssistant for the Veterinary Committee, said: “The workshop was very good and full of useful information. During the workshop I received additional information about standards, technical regulations, metrology and accreditation. This new knowledge is applicable to my activities. Many thanks to the organizers.” Side meetings were held with specialized agencies responsible for technical regulations, quality control laboratories and state health agencies to lay the groundwork for future support. These agencies included the Agency of Plant Protection and Quarantine, Sanitary-Epidemiological Welfare, the Public Health Service and State Committee for Veterinary and Livestock Development and the Agency for Technical Regulation. About the project The ITC is the implementing partner of the European Union’s Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO project. The five-year initiative seeks to support Uzbekistan's development plans to modernize its economy by leveraging its WTO accession process. The overarching objective of the project is to contribute to the country’s economic development.
Traditionally, most countries operated education and health as public services to support development and welfare. Over the past quarter century, however, private operators have stepped in, and trade in both sectors has expanded markedly. As part of Uzbekistan’s process of accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the country’s negotiators attended a workshop on health services on 19 October 2022, and one on educational services on 31 October. To regulate fair trade in services, WTO Members negotiated the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which entered into force in 1995. Educational and health services entered GATS negotiations in 2000. So if countries choose to liberalize these services when joining the WTO, they have to adhere to the agreed-upon rules. As new healthcare providers have emerged in developing countries, more patients are travelling abroad to receive affordable specialized medical treatment, in a trend dubbed “medical tourism”. In GATS speak, this form of trade is called “consumption abroad”, known technically as mode 2. At the same time, more healthcare workers from developing countries are selling their services in mature markets. Under the GATS this counts as “presence of natural persons”, which is called mode 4. During the pandemic, remote medical services also gained popularity. Changes in higher and specialized education have also seen trade rising sharply in this sector. For instance, when people study abroad, that falls under mode 2. Distance learning, now vastly easier thanks to technological advances, is treated in GATS as “cross-border supply”, under mode 1. And the spread of satellite campuses counts as trade in services, this time as “commercial presence” under mode 3. Despite all these developments, education remains one of the least liberalized sectors in the WTO. Looking at trade-offs The International Trade Centre (ITC) organized the workshops with funding under the European Union project known as “Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO. Two WTO officials provided the training online. The Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade requested the trainings to fortify the country’s trade services negotiations at the WTO. Six workshops earlier in the year covered banking and financial services, distribution services, environmental services, telecom services, courier services and audiovisual services. A central part of the training comprised detailed explanations of how GATS schedules are structured and commitments inscribed. Policies that can hinder trade were also discussed, with examples from WTO peers such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia and Tajikistan. The workshops also looked at the trade-offs in attempts to attract new service providers, safeguard existing local operators and minimize the risks from liberalization. Officials from the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade attended both workshops. The health services workshop was also attended by representatives of the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, the Ministry of Health, the Sanitary-Epidemiological Welfare and Public Health Service, and the National Chamber of Innovative Healthcare. The workshop on educational services was attended by representatives of the MIFT along with officials from the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Special Education, the Ministry of Higher Education and the State Inspectorate for Supervision of Quality in Education. About the project The ITC is the implementing partner of the European Union’s Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO project. The five-year initiative seeks to support Uzbekistan's development plans to modernize its economy by leveraging its WTO accession process. The overarching objective of the project is to contribute to the country’s economic development.
The ITC held a series of awareness-raising workshops for the private sector on Uzbekistan’s ongoing accession process to the World Trade Organization (WTO) during July and September 2022. Private sector buy-in for the bid is important to ensure the economic development benefits from the integration of Uzbekistan into the global economy. Notably, WTO accession will facilitate the private sector’s greater integration into global supply chains thereby ensuring stable offset point for services and products that they supply. Benefits spelled out WTO membership brings a number of benefits for member countries. It helps promote greater stability in commercial transactions through transparent policy requirements and it prevents members from imposing arbitrary trade barriers on one another. This normally ensures that the business environment becomes growth-directed, through greater market access and stable and predictable prices. Stability and predictability, for their part, contribute to credibility which tends to encourage foreign direct investment which can give further growth impetus to the home market. The series of private-sector-oriented workshops in Uzbekistan kicked off in Khiva, Khorezm region with a session held on 22 July 2022 and the second workshop was held on 4 August in Djizak, Djizak region. Positive response The response from participants has been positive. “Our country needs to join the WTO. It creates the basis for private sector producers and entrepreneurs to export their products and produce high quality and competitive products,” a businessman who participated noted after the workshop in the Khorezm region. A woman entrepreneur in Khorezm commended the initiative to inform the private sector about Uzbekistan’s WTO accession bid: “Many thanks to the organizers of this event. It would be very useful to organize more such seminars.” In the Kashkadarya region, Ms. Nargis Eshdavlatova, head of the“Imonaxon Faxhriddinovna” business enterprise, said: “During today’s workshop I received new knowledge and understanding. I am very happy that many doors for big opportunity will open for my private business. I support Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO.” And in Samarkand, Mr. Aslamboy Usmanov, a jurist at EKSPORTTehashroalu commented: “The workshop delivered on Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO left a very good impression on me. Now I have a better understanding that if our country accedes to the WTO, we would have many opportunities to trade. It would create convenient ways to export goods, and exporters would enjoy greater security. The above-mentioned points are very important for exporting.” The workshops focused predominantly on explaining the objectives and workings of the WTO. The process of accession is fleshed out and the benefits and challenges stemming from membership explained. The private sector role in the process of accession is set out against this backdrop. Workshops held in multiple regions The private sector-aimed workshops were organized and presented by the ITC with funding from the European Union. The workshops kicked off in July in Khorezm and continued throughout August and September in Djizak, Samarkand, Navoi, Bukhara, Fergana, Andijan, Namangan, Syrdarya, Tashkent, Surkhandarya, and Karakalpakstan. The ITC is the implementing partner of the European Union’s ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO’ project. The five-year initiative seeks to support Uzbekistan's development plans to modernize its economy by leveraging its WTO accession process. The overarching objective of the project is to contribute to the country’s economic development.
Postal and courier services form an important element of communications infrastructure. Traditionally, the sector was operated as government-run monopolies. However, technological developments have prompted big changes since the 1990s. This has had implications both for the way the sector is operated as well as regulated. The arrival of e-mail presented a new form of competition to conventional post-relayed mail. On the other hand, parcel delivery has boomed because of the exponential growth of e-commerce. At the manufacturing level, just-in-time responses demanded by global supply chains have also proved a boon for delivery services. The sector is growing strongly owing to its central role in modern-day logistics and supply-chain management. In response to the industry evolving, most countries have made market-driven adjustments, for instance by privatizing and corporatizing postal services, and narrowing their scope. Courier services have been separated from telecommunications in 85% of countries, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Today, 70% of international mail is provided by private companies, while parcel and express delivery is completely dominated by private sector operators. Despite these radical changes, the sector faces significant barriers, including in customs regulations and contract requirements. Regulatory issues concern anti-competitive practices, burdensome or untransparent universal service obligations, onerous licensing requirements and the absence of independent regulators. Courier services still sensitive for many countries In the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the sector is still defined by the nature of ownership, which is now considered to be an outdated approach not suited to WTO services trade commitments. Most countries that have acceded to the WTO since 1995 have made commitments in courier services. However, the sector remains sensitive for many developing and least developed countries that still operate postal monopolies and where the post is a reserved service. Because of its strategic importance for WTO demandeurs, Uzbekistan negotiators were recently trained on the sector’s intricacies of the sector and the process of scheduling commitments in courier services. The training was offered by the International Trade Centre (ITC) on 16 March 2022, under its European Union-funded project: ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’. Fifth session series on trade in services The training was the fifth session in a series of technical workshops in services trade. Sessions that have already been offered include audiovisual services, distribution services, environmental services and telecommunications. The training gave an overview of the sector’s market trends and regulatory barriers before turning to relevant sectoral negotiating proposals. The session worked through the current scheduling options by presenting a model schedule of trade in courier services commitments and discussing possible implications for Uzbekistan undertaking commitments in this sector. The workshop was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade (MIFT), the department responsible for negotiating Uzbekistan’s WTO accession, as well as by representatives of the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications and JSC “Uzbektelecom”.
With the support of technological advances, audiovisual services have exploded in recent decades. According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), audiovisual services include motion picture production and distribution services, motion picture projection services, radio and television services, radio and television transmission services and sound recording. These services are now to a large extent digitally produced. The production and transmission of content on a growing number of platforms and devices mean content can be consumed freely, anywhere in the world. This availability across borders has implications for trade. In this context, audiovisual services is a complex sector, because when governments regulate it, they grapple with a range of economic, social, and cultural objectives. Their policies might be protective as they seek to foster domestic production or safeguard cultural specificity, or more open if they wish to ensure a broad range of choices. Countries often prioritize moral standards and therefore regulate access to sensitive or illicit content. Advertising standards for audiovisual services are also a policy staple, as is intellectual property rights protection. Training as part of series on services under GATS The sector falls under the disciplines of the WTO – notably the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). It is a relatively recent addition to the GATS. It was only included in services negotiations in 2000, and only 41 countries have made specific commitments (less than a third of WTO Members). Developing countries have contributed a significant part to these commitments, and so have countries that have acceded to the WTO. Uzbekistan negotiators recently received training to familiarize themselves with the concepts, terminology and rules of the audiovisual sector in GATS negotiations. The training formed part of a series of technical workshops in the area of services trade, organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) on 2 March 2022, through its European Union-funded project: ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’. The training set out the structure of the GATS and its four modes of supply. A backgrounder to negotiations showed how audiovisual services have been treated under the GATS and what the links are to cultural objectives.The training also covered key features of trade in audiovisual services and how the sector is classified in the Services Sectoral Classification List. Flexibility under the GATS Owing to the leap in technological developments since the sector was added to the GATS, several issues remain unresolved in the audiovisual services sector classification. For instance, the online streaming of audiovisual content (including movies, television programming, videos and music) and multi-channel television (cable, phone-line and satellite) remain undefined. There is also no definition of ‘sound recording’. The workshop drilled into the features of GATS commitments in the areas of market access and national treatment and how commitments are scheduled. It also covered the typical limitations countries impose when they make commitments, and the key trade barriers faced. Acceding governments, however, benefit from the same flexibility that applies to the GATS generally, which leaves it to members to select and craft their commitments in the area of audiovisual services. Some examples of the limitations that countries set in their commitments include minimum foreign investment thresholds, joint venture requirements, foreign equity limits and content quotas. Under the latter, the import of titles, for instance, may be restricted to a set number per year. Representatives of the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade (MIFT), who lead Uzbekistan’s negotiations at the WTO, benefited from the training. Other participants included representatives of the Ministry for Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, the National Television and Radio Company of Uzbekistan, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications. Previous technical workshops in the series on services trade have covered environmental services, distribution services, and telecommunications. More services sectors may be earmarked for sessions, depending on the need indicated by the MIFT.
A technical training workshop was held to familiarize Uzbekistan’s negotiators in the country’s WTO accession bid with aspects of telecommunication services commitments under the GATS. With annual turnover of $1.6 trillion, telecommunication services is a vast, encompassing industry, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Two-thirds of these revenues derive from mobile services, which means telecom services form the backbone of the digital economy and help facilitate e-commerce of goods and services. The industry grew even stronger over the past two years as COVID 19-related lockdowns saw the demand for goods and services shifting online, with mobile services developing rapidly to meet the digital expansion. Apart from mobile services, telecommunication services also include data transmission, voice telephony and circuit capacity (known as ‘basic’ telecommunications). A range of data retrieval and processing services, online information, and messaging services comprise the value-added portion of the industry. Under WTO rules, the trade of telecommunications services is regulated by the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), while a purpose-designed Annex in the GATS is dedicated to telecommunications. The rules of the Annex apply to all WTO Members. The Annex makes provision for reasonable and non-discriminatory access to, and the use of, public telecommunications in any given market by suppliers of all basic and value-added telecommunications (excluding audiovisual) services. Another leg of the rules is encapsulated by the ‘Reference Paper’, which is a set of a regulatory principles that guide telecommunications reforms, and only binds WTO Members that have selected to do so. The fundamental trade principles – non-discrimination, transparency, competitive safeguards and reasonable regulation – are spelled out in a range of provisions in the GATS, the Annex and the Reference Paper. At present, 123 WTO Members have made market access and national treatment commitments on trade in telecommunication services under the GATS, while 105 members are bound by the regulatory principles in the Reference Paper, according to the WTO. Training trade negotiators in Uzbekistan The complexities of the trade aspects of telecommunication services was the focus of the second in a series of technical workshops in services trade, organized for Uzbekistan’s trade negotiators and relevant government specialists. The training, which took place online on 16 February 2022, was organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) as part of its support extended to Uzbekistan in its WTO accession bid under the European Union (EU) project: ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’. The workshop unpacked the unique features of telecoms in a trade context – notably how various services are defined and categorized in terms of the four modes of supply under the GATS. It also covered domestic regulation and the phase-in of liberalization, while the second half of the training focused on the intricacies of the Chairman’s Note on the scheduling of basic telecoms services. The training sought to equip Uzbekistan’s officials with an understanding of the expected results of the reforms in the telecommunications sector and the actual outcomes, and how governments have leveraged telecoms commitments, to inform Uzbekistan’s own approach to domestic regulatory reform and the country’s negotiating position in the WTO accession process. The training was provided in response to a request from the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade (MIFT), which leads Uzbekistan’s negotiating team at the WTO. A total of 17 experts attended the workshop, representing several relevant government departments, as well as the country’s biggest telecommunications operator, Uztelecom. Apart from MIFT, other attending government representatives came from the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications (MITC), the Ministry for Economic Development and Poverty Reduction (MEDPR) and the State Inspectorate for Control in the Field of Informatization and Telecommunications.
The scope of global environmental problems has seen the previously neglected policy area of environmental services take on greater importance in recent years, also in trade. Moreover, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which strive to coordinate international efforts in development, dedicate at least five goals directly to areas involving environmental services. This has therefore given more urgency globally to environmental priorities in the policy realm. Trade policy can be used to stimulate the spread of technologies that help mitigate environmental problems. If the expense of environmental goods and services are lowered, it could facilitate their wider accessibility and use. This would also create more jobs. Environmental services include “infrastructure” services, such as water supply, sewage, sanitation and solid waste treatment, as well as “non-infrastructure” services, such as those related to air pollution prevention and mitigation, noise abatement and the remediation of contaminated sites. Certain services are not easily categorized. For instance, it is not entirely clear whether services, such as environmental consultancy, should be treated as environmental infrastructure or non-infrastructure services. While providing environmental services was a relatively static, low-key sector in the past, the rapid emergence of new technologies has stimulated activity and, equally importantly, trade in this sector. Web-based environmental consulting, for instance, or the remote management of renewable energy systems and other information and communications technology (ICT)-facilitated services, has spurred the cross-border supply of environmental services, prompting the industry to mushroom in recent years. The WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services When environmental services are commercially traded across borders, they can be subject to the disciplines of the World Trade Organization (WTO), notably the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), depending on how a country has scheduled its services commitments. A key feature of environmental services is that many of them, such as water, sanitation, refuse disposal, recycling, and waste-water treatment are operated by public utilities and therefore resort under the State. Services supplied by governments are exempt from the GATS. However, the increasing tendency has been to privatize or sub-contract these type of services to private-sector entities. Environmental services that are traded privately are subject to WTO disciplines for service providers in WTO member countries. It is therefore crucial for WTO members to clarify their domestic regulatory framework and know which services are provided by the government and which by private actors, or public-private partnerships. Workshop guidance for Uzbekistan For countries in the process of acceding to the WTO, including Uzbekistan, a strong regulatory framework will facilitate compliance with GATS requirements. Key questions that the country would need to address in this process are: How will public policy objectives be achieved in a liberalized context? Is there a need for any new regulatory tools; or should existing regulation be calibrated? What are the trends on pricing, universal access and service standards? These questions build the foundation for successful liberalization under the GATS. To explain these technical intricacies under the GATS, the International Trade Centre (ITC) held an online workshop on 25 February 2022 for Uzbekistan’s negotiators and selected environmental specialists, organized under its European Union-funded project ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’. The training introduced the Scope of Environmental Services under the GATS, classifications, and definitions. The participants discussed the services under the Services Sectoral Classification List (the W/120) as well as the UN’s Central Product Classification list. Moreover, the workshop addressed the implications of private-sector participation and public private partnerships in these services. The training also explained market access and national treatment under the GATS, the four modes of supply and examples of the scheduling commitments of some of Uzbekistan’s important trading partners. These included the European Union, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Viet Nam. Participants included representatives of the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade, which leads Uzbekistan’s negotiations at the WTO. The other attendants included specialists from the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction; the State Committee for Ecology and Environment Protection of Uzbekistan; the Ministry of Housing and Communal Services and academia. The training was the third in a series focused on services. The sessions on distribution and telecommunication services took place earlier in February 2022 and trainings in other services sector areas are planned.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the custodian of an extremely sophisticated and intricate body of international law that regulates international trade between countries. As such, accession to the WTO is in itself a complex and multifaceted process involving negotiations between the acceding government and other WTO Members. The process can take a very long time and is conducted both multilaterally and bilaterally. It requires of acceding members to often make significant reforms to their national regulatory regime in order to conform with WTO law. To make this happen, strong and effective internal coordination is one of the key factors in the accession process. Despite this formidable and challenging process, accession to the WTO holds enormous benefits for acceding countries. This is so, because WTO membership, amongst others, facilitate policy transparency and the conformity with WTO laws means that barriers to trade are not arbitrarily introduced and a level playing field in the trade sphere is created between WTO countries. This enhances market access and stabilizes prices, which helps to buttress a country’s economic growth and development. As negotiations towards Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO are moving ahead, the International Trade Centre (ITC) organized an online workshop on 27 and 28 January 2022 to discuss WTO membership requirements and processes with relevant public sector representatives. The meeting was held under the auspices of the project: ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’, which is funded by the European Union (EU) and of which the ITC is the implementing partner. On the first day the content of the WTO membership negotiations formed the nucleus of the briefing. Participants were introduced to the overall accession process to the WTO, which is regulated by the Marrakesh Agreement, Article XII and the WTO legal framework with its 17 binding multilateral trade agreements. The presentation was set against the backdrop of Kazakhstan’s experience during its WTO accession process, and thus provided the context of a peer country for meaningful comparison. The key tenets of the WTO – namely its Most-Favored-Nation Treatment (MFN), National Treatment (NT) and the transparency principles – were explained. An update was also given of the main stages and participants of the accession process, at multilateral, plurilateral as well as bilateral level. The key documents of the accession package were reviewed and the briefing concluded with some recommendations to Uzbekistan’s on its negotiating stance in the accession process. Questions were addressed in the area of services and agriculture. Uzbekistan was advised on a pragmatic approach with a view to align the negotiations outcomes with its economic development objectives . Inter-Agency Commission to facilitate national coherence A key challenge in the WTO accession process generally, is to coordinate all State agency inputs and ensure all national interests – both public and private – are equally represented to ensure a balanced and fair outcome for the country as a whole. The second day of the training on 28 January, therefore focused on the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of coordination between the various government agencies and business partners in the process. The discussions zoomed in on the Inter-Agency Commission (IAC) on the WTO and its structure, goals and activities. First, a session was dedicated to exploring how Kazakhstan coordinated between different government branches during its WTO accession process. The Kazakhstan government had also created an Inter-Agency Commission – the IAC of Kazakhstan on Trade Policy and Participation in International Economic Organizations – to steer the holistic representation of national interests. This set the scene for discussing the IAC that was created by Uzbekistan to fulfil a similar function, notably through the establishment of working groups on key sectors of the negotiations. The process of coordinating and reaching agreement between various State bodies, and subsequently, with representatives of the private sector, was explained. On the legislative part, the workshop focused on the establishment of an expert council on legislation on foreign trade and foreign investments in the Oliy Majlis – Uzbekistan’s parliament. The council would be tasked with reviewing the existing and adopted legislative acts to ensure their compliance with the WTO rules. Some 37 people participated in the two-day training. The Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan (MIFT), which leads Uzbekistan’s WTO negotiations, was also in the lead during the workshop. Other ministries and agencies represented at the training included: the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications, the State Tax Committee, the Export Promotion Agency, the Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of T the Ministry of Innovation, tourism and Sport, the State Customs Committee, the Central Bank of Uzbekistan.
The European Union (EU) has exceptionally granted permission to purchase a set of IT equipment to bolster the Uzbekistan’s WTO accession team through the project ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’. The project provides support to Uzbekistan’s negotiators, including the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan (MIFT) and other public agencies, in their preparations and participation in the accession negotiations and to conduct domestic policy reforms. The project, which is funded by the EU with the ITC as an implementing partner, is also a key pillar in building technical capacity and expertise among government officials in the area of WTO rules and accession negotiations. The request for the equipment came from the project partners in order to facilitate the implementation of the project’s activities as well as participation in the negotiations. The procurement includes video conferencing equipment as well as office equipment, such as two laptops, four desktop computers, four iPads, two printers and a comb binding system. While the provision of IT equipment was not envisaged in the original project documents, the procurement was exceptionally granted to support the workings of the negotiating team and auxiliary services in Tashkent. The video conferencing equipment, for instance, will greatly facilitate remote participation in negotiations and other strategic meetings – a necessity to eliminate excessive travel in Covid times. The equipment was procured by means of a fully-fledged tender procedure, carried out by the United Nations Development Programme in Tashkent, the vendor was selected through a competitive bid process in line with principles of transparency, fairness and effective competition. The IT devices and equipment were successfully procured in January 2022 and all devices are branded with the EU and project logo.
Officials at a training series in Tashkent (10-12 November 2021) that forms part of the facilitation of Uzbekistan’s accession process to the World Trade Organization. A series of intense trainings on WTO accession and policy space flexibilities under the WTO Agreements was held in Tashkent from 10 to 12 November 2021, organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) under the auspices of the European Union (EU)’s ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’ project. The Tashkent trainings covered a broad range of accession-related subjects, notably on exemptions and policy space allowance in the multilateral trading system’s rules. The training was extended not only to government officials but included relevant segments of the private sector as key stakeholders in this important development for Uzbekistan’s economy. In his opening remarks at the training workshop, Mr. Badriddin Abidov, the Deputy Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade (MIFT) and Uzbekistan’s Chief Negotiator in the WTO bid process acknowledged that joining the WTO was an “absolute priority” for Uzbekistan. The country’s President, His Excellency Mr Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in his annual address to Parliament had, in fact, earmarked the process as one of the main tasks of the government this year, Mr. Abidov said. “We see the process as an integral part of deep ongoing reforms aimed at deepening the integration of Uzbekistan in world economic relations and the multilateral system. “Our main goal is to secure the balance of rights and obligations to ensure the sustainable and consistent goals of the national economy,” Mr. Abidov said, noting that the accession to the WTO not only entailed trade regulation and market opening, but encompassed regulatory mechanisms which afforded flexibilities and exceptions to “support national interests in a competent manner”. “We build on the belief that the liberalization of access to goods and services should not have a negative impact on sectors of the country’s economy, [notably] those that are at the formation or modernization stage and those that have good development potential,” he emphasized. The crucial question of flexibility and the exemptions available to governments when they accede to the WTO were indeed at the top of the agenda of the week’s training in Tashkent and were fleshed out in the areas of both tariff cuts and non-tariff measures in goods and services trade. In goods trade, substantive and administrative flexibilities were spelled out in the areas of customs administration, taxation and domestic measures, agricultural disciplines, subsidies and industrial policy objectives as well as how to ensure a “level playing field” through trade remedies, which include anti-dumping, countervailing measures and safeguards. A session was also dedicated to provisions built into the WTO Agreement to enable countries to institute import restrictions in the event of an import surge to safeguard the country’s balance of payments. The “postitive list”-approach in services trade commitments, which affords considerable negotiating latitude, was spelled out to demonstrate the scope of flexibility available to Uzbekistan as it considers the extent to which it wants to open its markets to foreign service providers. Mr. Francois Begeot, the Head of the Cooperation Section of the Delegation of the European Union to Uzbekistan who also addressed the meeting, noted that Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO was a very important step for the country that would change its trade relations with the rest of the world. “There are not many countries today that are not part of the WTO and therefore it is so important to be integrated into this process,” he said. He said the upcoming MC-12 is an important moment for Uzbekistan, not only to show the WTO Member States its commitment and willingness in the process, but also to frame its limitations
To strengthen technical expertise of Uzbekistan’s laboratory personnel, a three-day training workshop was organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) under the European Union (EU) funded project ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’, for which ITC is the implementing partner. The workshop took place from 27 to 29 September 2021 and follows on international standards-oriented training that took place in June. This round of training sought to expand understanding about basic measurement principles and practice, including calibration, traceability, uncertainty calculation, repeatability and reproducibility as well as quality system documentation, environmental controls, equipment handling and the use of external laboratories and purchasing specifications. Accurate measurement is a necessary underpinning for production, research and development and trade. The International System of Units (SI), adopted by the General Conference of Weights and Measures (CGPM), serves as the basis for national regulations concerning legal units of measurement and to promote global comparability of measurements. Metrology is the common science of units established to define units of measurement and realize them in practice. It also introduced traceability that link measurements made back to reference standards (SI) , in accordance with standard ISO 17025 of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Measurement systems comprise laboratories, calibration facilities and accreditation agents that maintain the measurement infrastructure of a country. Base units (including length, mass, time, electric current among the seven) are defined by the International System of Units (SI). Traceability allows for the comparison of measurements – regardless of when it was made or where – and is usually obtained by calibration, which establishes a relationship between a measurement instrument and a standard through an operation that establishes a relation between the measurement standard with a known measurement uncertainty and the device that is being evaluated. The key motivations for calibration are to provide traceability, determine accuracy, establish reliability and to guarantee that the device, or the standard, is consistent with other measurements. Measurement traceability operates on a pyramid, which is determined by international reference standards maintained according to scientific principles by the International Organization for Legal Metrology (OIML), through national metrology institutions that calibrate primary standards which can be traced back by an “unbroken chain of comparisons” to the international standard. Measurement uncertainty expresses the magnitude of doubt related to the measurement result and deploys two quantities to quantify the uncertainty – namely, the range (i.e. the value in the units of the measured quantity) and the confidence level, which indicates the level of certainty that the ‘real’ value is included within the range. Why is calibration to a standard that is traceable important? Traceability is a guarantor for the accuracy of measuring equipment both to manufacturers and customers, or consumers, of processes and/or products. It provides credibility for producers and corroborates the precision of equipment and measurements to customers, thereby guaranteeing that specifications have been met. As such, the compliance of national measurement systems with internationally standardized measurement systems is naturally of great importance for countries that trade internationally. The training also covered the ground of the requirements for proficiency testing in conformity assessment – under ISO/IEC 17043 – which is the evaluation of participant performance against pre-established criteria by means of interlaboratory comparisons. The certification of products, processes or services plays an important role in providing impartial confirmation that specified requirements had been fulfilled. The World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade stipulates that conformity assurance when required, be done in a transparent way that is not discriminatory. It also sets forth that conformity assessment be informed by the relevant guides and recommendations issued by international standardizing bodies to aid harmonization. As such, Uzbekistan’s bid to accede to the WTO is supported by the training. Participants in the workshop, which took place online, included technicians of Uzstandard Agency, the Uzbek National Institute of Metrology (UZNIM), the State Unitary Enterprise (SUE) Centre for the Provision of Services in the Agro-Industrial Sector, the SUE Centre of Expertize and Standardization of Medicines, Medical Devices and Medical Equipment’, the Sanitary-Epidemiological Welfare and Public Health Service (Sanepidservice), ‘Quality Control Lab’ LLC, SUE ‘UZTEST’, the Agency for Technical Regulation, ‘Texnopark’ LLC, the SUE ‘State Eco Certificate’, the SUE ‘Center for Certification of Tourism Services’, the State Committee on Ecology & Environment Protection, Tashkent State Technical University and Tashkent Medical Academy.
The private sector will be among the key beneficiaries when Uzbekistan’s accession bid to the World Trade Organization (WTO) becomes a reality. WTO membership promotes greater stability for commercial transactions as a country’s trade policy is aligned to the WTO’s rules-based system. This makes the business environment more predictable, thereby oiling business and, in particular, investors’ confidence, and creating conditions for stability and growth in markets. Moreover, integration into the global economy can facilitate the participation in global supply chains, which can provide country’s producers and service providers with more secured market access and greater income stability. This can be particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in a country. As part of capacity-building efforts to support Uzbekistan’s WTO accession bid, the International Trade Centre (ITC) organized a virtual workshop on 17 August for private sector stakeholders in the context of the European Union’s (EU’s) funded project ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’ for which the ITC is the implementing partner. This workshop was the first private sector-targeted event under the project with a view to raise awareness and garner support for Uzbekistan’s WTO membership bid among this strategically important stakeholder community. The workshop complements a series of training, which has primarily targeted policy makers with a view to enhance their understanding of WTO disciplines to support Uzbekistan’s negotiating efforts as well as equip officials with the wherewithal to align the country’s trade policy with WTO rules. The workshop commenced with a briefing by Mr. Farrukh Zakirov, Acting Head of the WTO Accession Department, Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade (MIFT) of the Republic of Uzbekistan, about the reforms undertaken so far in Uzbekistan, aimed at improving the overall macro-economic situation such as policy changes in the areas of foreign currency exchange, trade and taxation. Details were also provided on the state of play of the formal negotiations and the intricacies of the negotiation process. The benefits as well as the challenges that may arise from WTO membership for the country were spelled out in a dedicated session. An information-sharing session on the practical experience of neighboring Kazakhstan’s private sector when that country joined the WTO complemented the session. Kazakhstan’s accession process, which commenced in 1996 was concluded in 2015 and resulted in the amendment of more than fifty laws, which helped to improve the businesses environment. A Q&A session at the conclusion of the workshop provided ample opportunity for private sector representatives to raise questions and concerns and identify their needs in terms of future awareness raising events. Apart from the fact that membership of the WTO can assist to create a more predictable and stable business environment through transparent rules, fair competition and independent trade dispute settlement, WTO membership underscores other key benefits for the business community, notably: WTO membership provides business, especially export-oriented businesses, with greater market access opportunities. This is facilitated by way of so-called most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment, which gives equal access for all companies to the markets of WTO Members along with lower trade barriers, such as tariffs, imports restrictions and other regulatory constraints. The alignment of trade policy with international requirements by and large ensures a reduction in the cost of doing business, not only through lower tariffs but also fewer requirements (in alignment with international standards) and procedures, thereby helping to increase productivity and integrate global value chains. Importantly, the alignment of regulations with WTO rules lends credibility to a market. This can help to improve the business environment and thereby makes it more attractive for foreign investors to invest in a country, creating further business opportunity and employment (see Figure 1). WTO membership safeguards the economic interests of a country as it becomes participant in the negotiation of new trade rules or the modification of existing ones, which means Members’ interests are taken into account because decisions in the WTO are reached by consensus. Figure 1. Foreign direct investment inflows into Cambodia and Vietnam after WTO accession
A trade delegation led by Uzbekistan’s Deputy-Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade, Mr. Badriddin Abidov, met ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton in Geneva on 21 July 2021. As part of an official visit that took place from 18 to 24 July 2021, Uzbekistan’s delegation also benefited from participating in training sessions organized in support of Uzbekistan’s accession bid to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The training was organized by the ITC under the auspices of the European Union (EU) ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’ project. Mr. Abidov is Uzbekistan’s chief trade negotiator in the WTO accession process, and this was his first meeting with Ms. Coke-Hamilton. While the ITC-facilitated project commenced at the start of 2020 with an ITC mission undertaken to Uzbekistan in February 2020 to kickstart project implementation, Covid-related restrictions prevented subsequent travel. The talks between Mr. Abidov and Ms. Coke-Hamilton centered on the WTO accession support programme mentioned, as well as the Ready4Trade Central Asia project which is aimed at oiling intra-regional trade in Central Asia. Progress under the was discussed as well as Uzbekistan’s current priority needs to buttress the accession process. Speaking after the meeting, Mr. Abidov said the ministry was pleased with the progress that has been achieved to date on the national project. “We now hope to maintain this pace for our future cooperation, which will contribute to the efficiency of the process of the republic's accession to the WTO,” he commented. Three training sessions took place on 23 July, covering pivotal themes in the area of international trade. It was attended by nine high-level officials from several relevant public bodies, including the Ministries of Investments and Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, and Central Bank of Uzbekistan. In the first session, Mr. Rajesh Aggarwal, Chief of Trade Facilitation and Policy for Business at the ITC, discussed the dynamics of integration into a world economy that is dominated by global value chains (GVCs). Global value chains are the phenomenon where the production of goods and services is not restricted to one country and firm but is steered by transnational corporations that apportion or source different parts, inputs or stages of the production process to intermediaries in different locations on the basis of optimal costing. The rise of GVCs is mainly attributable to the pervasive growth of information and communication technology (ICT), a marked drop in the cost of transport and communications and the gradual lowering of trade tariffs over the last century. GVCs are now entrenched worldwide, and all countries participate in them to a greater or lesser extent. Of particular importance to a country opening its borders to trade is the need to shield the competitiveness of its small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as these firms are key to the economies of countries, notably in the developing world. It has been shown that they contribute between 50–70 per cent to countries’ gross domestic product (GDP). As important is their major role as employers, with SMEs generating up to 70 per cent of jobs worldwide. Moreover, near half of SMEs are owned by women, highlighting their fortifying role for social stability. The training emphasized the need for countries entering the global economy to tailor a coherent national trade policy framework that reconciles different trade policy domains and instruments in order to buttress the export competitiveness of their SMEs. This implies heeding diverse support interventions at multiple levels, such as providing competitive services, promoting foreign direct investment (FDI) and exports, easing border crossing and improving access to capital and input. The second training session, presented by the Director of the Accessions Division of the WTO Secretariat, Ms. Maika Oshikawa, gave a historical overview of WTO accession negotiations, and showed the impact WTO membership has had on acceding countries. It was demonstrated that acceding members have, on average, experienced faster growth in GDP, inward foreign direct investment stocks and merchandise trade in goods (exports and imports) – both in comparison with the years prior to WTO accession and when assessed relative to the world average. This growth was achieved even as acceding countries were levelling-pegging or dragged behind world growth of GDP and FDI stock in the five-year period before accession. In many countries WTO accession was also followed by a flourishing of export diversification although this has not been the case for all countries. Growth rate of goods exports before and after WTO accession Ms. Oshikawa also set out the state of play in ongoing accessions and outlined the next steps in Uzbekistan’s Working Party cycle. The third training session, presented by international trade law and policy specialist, Mr. Rambod Behboodi, who is a former partner at the trade law firm Kings & Spalding and former counsellor at the WTO’s Rules Division, centered on the services accession under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (the GATS). The particular intricacies of the GATS were detailed and a technical presentation was made on how the scheduling of GATS commitments functions and the manner in which a WTO acceding country can weigh its interests in this process in regard to its own concessions and demands. A detailed distinction was drawn between the structure of general obligations as they relate to services, compared with goods, the specific commitments were expounded, while the particular criteria for exceptions under the GATS were fleshed out. The financial services sector constitutes a strategically sensitive sector under the general service sector industry because it underpins other sectors and economies at large and therefore have systemic impact if unsound. The sector is therefore heavily regulated and is subject to singular disciplines that do not affect other sectors. WTO obligations for financial services are consequentially uniquely tailored under the GATS Financial Services Annex, with bespoke obligations such as cross-border prudential assessment and a hived-off dispute settlement process. The last part of the training was dedicated to exploring the complexities of this sector and traversed the scope, definitions and exclusions set out in the Annex.
The services sector comprises a broad spectrum – from communications to transport, finance, education, tourism and environmental services. Importantly, not only does trade in services take place, but several key services sectors, such as information and communication (ICT), finance and shipping, underpin commercial trade and economies as such. It is thus a dynamic sector and over the last five decades or so services have become the backbone of the global economy, growing by 10 percentage points between 2005 and 2017, according to World Trade Organization (WTO) figures. Today it makes up the most dynamic component of international trade. Trade in services comprise disciplines more intricate than those for the trade of products under trade rules of the WTO. Moreover, unlike for goods, countries schedule their own commitments for services trade liberalization and are able to carve-out sectors or grade the liberalization in a tailored way to suit the nature and interests of their economies. WTO services rules are therefore brought together in their own agreement – the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). In support of Uzbekistan’s ongoing accession process to the WTO, a training session on the rules governing services trade was held for government officials of Uzbekistan between 28 and 30 July 2021 to introduce the key elements of GATS disciplines and negotiations (day one). The last two days of the training was dedicated to the financial services sector. The sector is strategically sensitive because of its importance for the economy at large and the systemic risks it poses. Financial services rules therefore have unique complexities. The training was organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) as part of the European Union (EU) trade capacity-building envelope ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’ and presented by international trade law and policy specialist, Mr. Rambod Behboodi. The architecture of the GATS was laid out and the four modes through which a service can be supplied by the service provider of a country to consumers in another was explained in the general introduction. Terrain was covered of the types of measures countries might take that can affect a service, and the scope of such measures’ effect, along with bread-and-butter WTO principles under the GATS, such as national treatment and most-favoured nations treatment, as well as anti-competitive practices, and general and security exceptions. The GATS permits latitude for acceding governments to schedule their services commitments. This means that in their schedules they can specify, firstly, the terms, limitations and conditions of market access; second, conditions and qualifications on national treatment; third, their undertakings relating to additional commitments; fourthly, they can determine the time-frame for implementation of the commitments; and lastly, the date of entry into force of the commitments. In terms of specific commitments, acceding members may negotiate commitments on measures affecting trade in services that are not part of the scheduling under market access and national treatment. This covers issues such as standards or licensing. Financial services – a strategic sector governed by standalone annex Of all services sectors, the financial sector is the most heavily regulated because it is part of the basic architecture of an economy. This means the sector’s health is essential to the soundness of an economy as a whole. An unsound financial sector has systemic implications, ranging from international payments and risk management activities to foreign direct investment, as the financial crisis of 2008 so vividly showed. Yet, moral hazard inevitably can stem from policies aimed to prevent systemic risk and provide safety nets such as deposit insurance. For these reasons, WTO rules for the financial sector are treated separately in a standalone annex, and with separate, dedicated dispute settlement provisions. The second- and third-day training focused on the state of play in Uzbekistan’s financial services sector, which is currently dominated by state banks, and its actual financial services trade patterns. The training delved into strategies to identify key interests, pre-access GATS concessions and demands, and how to balance concessions with the country’s interests. Actual case examples were used to show how the GATS negotiations can be structured by exploring sectoral examples. In terms of engagement with WTO members during the negotiations, the training considered ways in which alliances can be built and how to “stress-test” the negotiation dynamics. A large portion of the training time was dedicated to address specific questions and concerns. “The workshop on financial services organized by the EU project was very helpful for the Central Bank of Uzbekistan. Essentially, the sharing of best practice and financial services expertise, particularly about the cross-disciplinary implications of the banking sector and bespoke obligations will support Uzbekistan’s WTO accession process,” said Mr. Shokhrukh Akhmedov, Head of the International Cooperation Department at the Central Bank of Uzbekistan. Representatives of the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank of Uzbekistan, and the Insurance Market Development Agency took part in the training.
A reliable intellectual property (IP) regime is key to innovation-led development. If a country protects intellectual property rights (IPRs), innovators are ensured that they will rightly benefit from their efforts, which spurs on innovative endeavors. This helps to unlock technological know-how and facilitate its smooth dissemination for the benefit of both producers and users, thereby boosting social and economic welfare. Multilateral rules that guide the effective and adequate protection of IPRs are set out in the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade Related Intellectually Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS). The agreement focuses on the promotion of trade-led development through the lens of intellectual property, and also includes provisions for the settlement of disputes. In the process of joining the WTO as a fully-fledged member, Uzbekistan will align its IPR regime with WTO rules. The current legal regime of Uzbekistan regulates the protection and enforcement of IPRs on trademarks, patents, utility models, industrial designs, copyrights and related rights, as well as plant varieties. The country is also party to sixteen international agreements on IPRs, including the Paris Convention, Berne Convention, the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the World Intellectual Property Organization Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). Still, the need to formally align the legal regime of the Republic of Uzbekistan with the TRIPS Agreement is a key pillar for its accession to the WTO. A vital underpinning of the endeavor is the capacity to administer this intricate transition. To support Uzbekistan’s IP specialists in this process, the European Union (EU) ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’ project organized a three-day virtual workshop on the TRIPS Agreement and the National IP regime of Uzbekistan in May 2021. Representatives of key government authorities participated in the event, including the Intellectual Property Agency under the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade, the State Customs Committee, the State Tax Committee, and the Agency for the Development of Pharmaceutical Industry. The purpose of the workshop was to cement an understanding of the key principles of the TRIPS and how they relate to Uzbekistan’s obligations. Discussions focused in particular on: the rights of WTO members to adopt measures to protect public health, nutrition and other public interests, and the prevention of abuse of IPRs; the WTO’s two tenet non-discrimination principles: national treatment, which prohibits discrimination between a member’s own nationals and the nationals of other members; and most-favored-nation treatment, which prohibits discrimination between the nationals of WTO members, notably with regard to ensuring availability, acquisition, scope, maintenance, enforcement and the use of IPRs; the freedom to have higher standards of IPR protection, but not thereby create an obligation; and freedom to determine the appropriate method of implementing the Agreement. The workshop covered the basic provisions related to the protection and enforcement of key forms of IP rights, including copyright and related rights, trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, patents, layout-designs, undisclosed information and trade secrets, and anti-competitive practices. A part of the workshop was devoted to the discussion of the current state of Uzbekistan’s national IP legislation and ongoing developments in this area. Participants exchanged views on particular aspects of Uzbekistan’s IP regime and legislative reforms that are relevant in the context of accession to the WTO. The Deputy-Director of the Intellectual Property Agency of Uzbekistan Mr. Esemurat Kanyazov commended the seminar for providing “a good opportunity for the personnel of our agency to receive insightful information on the accession process of Uzbekistan to the WTO”. The workshop continued earlier capacity-building efforts for Uzbekistan’s government officials on the TRIPS Agreement. In December 2020, TRIPS-related issues national reform priorities were discussed during training organized for Uzbekistan’s specialists by the WTO and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), with the support of the ITC through the EU’s ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’ project. The compliance of Uzbekistan’s national IP laws with the norms of the TRIPS Agreement is not only a significant part of the accession to the WTO but will help strengthen the protection of Uzbekistan citizens’ original ideas and trademarks and play a vital part in combatting counterfeit and pirated products. The project will continue to provide technical advice in support of the national regulatory reform process to facilitate the changes required for WTO membership.
Uzbekistan continues to pursue its goal of becoming the Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). To facilitate Uzbekistan in this path, the European Union project ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’ implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC), has organized a series of 3 online experience sharing sessions with former chief negotiators on WTO accession from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Ukraine for Uzbekistan’s government officials. The opening words made by ITC and the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade (MIFT) in these sessions were followed by the presentation of the best practices and approaches in the WTO accession negotiations made by Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Tajikistan. In particular, the participants discussed and exchanged recommendations on the following points: stages of multilateral, plurilateral and bilateral accession negotiations; regulatory reform process in the context of accession; preparation of documents required for WTO accession negotiations; participation of acceding governments in the Working Party Meetings at the WTO; best practices in ensuring transparent and effective inter-ministerial communication and institutional coordination for the formulation of constructive negotiation positions; lessons learnt from the experience of negotiating with certain WTO Members; best practice in cooperation with development agencies and receiving external technical assistance. Through a direct and open dialogue with the former chief negotiators, Uzbekistan’s negotiators had a chance to discuss a variety of issues that acceding governments are facing on their way to the WTO Membership. This type of consultative assistance provided by WTO Members who had gone through the accession process (as per the process envisaged under Article XII) plays a crucial role in acquiring hands-on experience for Uzbekistan’s policymakers in deepening their understanding of the WTO accession process and in this regard to further the efforts of Uzbekistan to become a full-fledged Member state of the WTO.
To become a WTO Member, Uzbekistan needs to prepare to comply with an array of trade agreements, among which the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Agreements. Both these agreements promote the use of international standards (harmonization) and the principle of equivalence in the development and application of technical and SPS measures. In implementing these measures, both agreements promote the concepts of non-discrimination and the avoidance of unnecessary obstacles to trade. To support Uzbekistan in its path, a 2-day workshop dedicated to good practices in elaboration and implementation of technical regulations was organized in March under the EU-funded ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’ project. Participants included representatives from the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Uzstandard Agency, the State Plant Quarantine Inspection, and Ministry of Health. Issues discussed over the course of these 2 days included difference between standards, technical regulations and SPS measures, use of standards for policy making and regulation, methods of referring to standards in technical regulations, good practices in the elaboration of technical regulations, the importance of developing a national regulatory framework, regulatory impact analysis, good practice in enforcing technical regulations and market surveillance. Participants gained practical insights and knowledge on the essential principles, pre-requisites, procedures, and key factors that lead to effective technical regulations and market surveillance. The workshop enabled participants to understand how the WTO Agreements on TBT and SPS can be useful in the harmonization of technical regulations or SPS measures and provide a basis for regulatory cooperation among governments, thereby easing trade frictions Based on the discussion during the workshop, recommendations were made to pursue the review of the main TBT and SPS related laws taking into consideration the knowledge gained in this workshop. ITC provided a number of supporting documents and the training materials to the counterparts for further dissemination among local stakeholders. The above event was organized as one of a series of technical workshops aimed at supporting Uzbekistan be better equipped to handle its WTO accession process and facilitate a smooth implementation of the WTO Agreements on TBT and SPS.
To become a full-fledged member of the WTO, Uzbekistan must bring its rules and regulations into alignment with all existing WTO agreements. One of these Agreements is key in ensuring that a country’s consumers are being supplied with food that is ‘safe’ to eat: the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures sets out the basic rules in the WTO on how governments can apply food safety, animal and plant health measures without creating unnecessary obstacles to trade. This Agreement navigates between 2 key considerations in international trade: ensuring that SPS measures adopted nationally have a legitimate objective and that they conform with a key set of rules and criteria commonly agreed by all WTO Members, ensuring that health and safety regulations are not being used as an excuse for protecting domestic producers. To help Uzbekistan’s policy makers and technical regulators better understand this Agreement and its implications, the European Union project’s ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’ and implemented by the International Trade Centre, organized a series of webinar trainings on SPS measures between November 2020 to February 2021 for government officials, and representatives of the State Plants Quarantine Inspection (Uzstatequarantine in short). Particular emphasis was placed on guidelines and methodologies of international bodies on Pest Risk Analysis (PRA). Specific recommendations in that sense were made to help Uzbek officials improve and complement the existing national legislation. In addition, technical assistance was also focused on reviewing plant health/quarantine legislation with a view of providing recommendations on legislative amendments that were discussed with the national counterparts. The capacities of the SPS-related institutions have been also built with regarding to phytosanitary treatment (disinfection and application of alternative methyl bromide fumigants, phytosanitary treatment methods in organic agriculture) and recommendation on its further development. As a result of this series of trainings, participants delved deeper into specific aspects of applying measures and international requirements on food safety in accordance with the WTO Agreement on SPS. Participants expressed their gratitude for the productive and practical nature of the webinars held. As one of the participants stated: “I was able to get the information I needed about the role of the PRA, which I will be able to use in my everyday work.” Safeguarding food safety, animal and plant health measures on the basis of the WTO SPS Agreement should boost the export of Uzbek food products by improving foreign trade-related practices and consumers’ trust. Likewise, by regulating quarantine measures, it will be easier to protect Uzbek’s internal market from the intrusion of harmful food products through the borders which may actually threaten the health and safety of the population.
Governments can use subsidies for a number of reasons, but regardless of whether they are intended to correct market failures or to address policy priorities of the government involved, these subsidies could have distortive effect for international markets. The WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement) disciplines the use of the subsidies and regulates the actions countries can take to counteract their effects. To support building an understanding on subsidies disciplines, a series of workshops dedicated to the existing rules under the SCM Agreement was organized last February for Uzbekistan’s policymakers and negotiators. Under the umbrella of the European Union’s project ‘Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO’ implemented by ITC, participants received key information on the main rules and regulations under the SCM Agreement during this 3-day workshop, in particular on: the different categories of subsidies the mandatory notification requirements how to calculate the subsidies’ exact amount customs duties countervailing measures WTO commitments on industrial subsidies for a selected list of recently acceded countries A number of practical tasks based on real case studies and topic-related quizzes were also offered to the participants, as to ensure a practical understanding of these rules and regulations beyond the theory. "I would like to thank ITC for such an informative workshop on subsidies disciplines under the WTO SCM Agreement; it was well-structured and delivered in a very effective way with plenty of practical examples and cases of good practice. I feel that the course increased my competency in this area, which will be extremely beneficial for my work going forward ", said Lolita Irgasheva, Chief Specialist at the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction of Uzbekistan. Furthermore, the experts delivering the workshop also stressed out the fact that when Uzbekistan becomes a WTO Member, it will get access to an array of legal instruments available under the SCM Agreement to defend the interests of its exporters against unfair practices. This could be achieved through the use of countervailing duty proceedings or by the recourse to the Dispute Settlement mechanism.
For SMEs, the protection of their innovations and technology under a reliable intellectual property (IP) regime is crucial. To ensure the existence of such an environment, Uzbekistan is examining its level of compliance with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in its process to become a full-fledged member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The TRIPS Agreement: - sets forth minimum standards of protection for several areas of IP, - mandates detailed civil, criminal, and border enforcement provisions with regard to IP, and - is subject to enforceable dispute settlement. As WTO Members have the freedom to choose the appropriate method of implementing the provisions of the TRIPS agreement within their own legal system and practice, understanding the subtleties of the agreement is key for the Uzbek authorities in their accession negotiations. To support their efforts, the WTO together with the WIPO and ITC, through the European Union (EU) 'Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO' project, have recently joined forces to organize a dedicated workshop for Uzbek negotiators on issues related to the TRIPS Agreement. . During the workshop, IP experts gave participants an extensive overview of the Agreement and showcased some best practices cases from countries with similar legal background. In particular, topics discussed included the TRIPS Agreement's provisions on Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks and Geographical Indicators and flexibilities for policy space provided by the Agreement. Study of Uzbekistan's IP regime, including laws and regulations relevant to its WTO accession The World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) programmeto support the development of a national IP strategy in Uzbekistan Focusing on the national aspects of the IP regime, participants of the workshop were introduced to the current settings of Uzbekistan's IP protection system as well as to recent developments in the laws and regulations relevant for the WTO accession. The workshop also created an opportunity to discuss the development of an IP Strategy for Uzbekistan and the progress made with the assistance of WIPO, which is one of the endeavours put in place to support Uzbekistan in the strengthening of its national IP regime. It is important to note that participants of the workshop came from a wide array of government agencies and ministries, to ensure a much-needed holistic approach of these IP issues, including but not limited to the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade, the Agency on Intellectual Property, the State Customs Committee, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture. The compliance of Uzbekistan's IP laws with the TRIPS Agreement will not only play a crucial role in Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO, but it will also further develop significant economic sectors such as creative industries, the pharmaceutical industry, agriculture and/or high-technology among others, by securing their IP rights on an international level.
Providing timely and high-quality trade in services can play a key role in boosting the inclusive development of economies. This is precisely why the improvement of a country's services in compliance with the regulations of international agreements is one of the substantial prerequisites of accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). To further support Uzbekistan in its path to becoming a WTO member, the European Union's project 'Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO', implemented by ITC recently organized a set of working sessions specifically on trade in services related issues. The "Working Sessions on Scheduling Commitments on Services under the WTO/GATS", held from the 17th to the 24th of November, involved a large number of participants from various backgrounds, including officials from the Ministries of Investments and Foreign Trade, of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, of Finance, of Transport, of Justice, of Energy, State Committees for Ecology and Environmental Protection, for Geology and Mineral Resources, from the State Tax Committee, from the Uzstandard Agency, from the Agency on Intellectual Property, as well as other key government agencies . The significant diversity in participation made the sessions even more impactful and the knowledge acquired even more sustainable for all. Over the four days-seminar, participants gained a detailed understanding of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), its structure, scope and key concepts in scheduling WTO commitments as presented by ITC's experts. The concept of Environmental Services was also introduced, especially as it relates to the various modes of supply and types of services supplied by the government, e.g. solid waste management, water supply, wastewater management, laying pipelines, metering, air pollution management, hazardous waste management and so on. The specific WTO Classification of Services, particularly with regards to Central Product Classification was also presented through specific examples and case studies. At the end of each session, participants not only benefited from the discussions, but could also evaluate the level of the information they had acquired by taking short quizzes. Mr. Abduhalikov, Chief Specialist of the State Committee for Ecology and Environment Protection of the Republic of Uzbekistan, emphasized the importance of holding such events "to improve the level of knowledge of specialists from the relevant departments", because the information they received during these sessions was new for them, while being crucial for Uzbekistan to accede to the WTO. He also noted: "the workshop was very useful to me in that I was finally able to get the answers to some important questions I have had for a long time." These sessions are one of the many activities planned under the EU 'Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO' project, which aims to support Uzbekistan's development plans to modernize its economy by leveraging its WTO accession process.
Agriculture is a complex yet crucial topic for countries negotiating their entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Many acceding countries can find it extremely challenging to enhance agricultural development in a WTO-consistent way. In response to a request from the governments of several developing countries, the WTO and the International Trade Centre (ITC), with the support of the European Union project on Facilitating the Process of Uzbekistan's Accession to the WTO, held a virtual training course on the WTO Agreement on Agriculture on 12−22 October 2020. The training helped participants advance their accession negotiations and equipped them to implement their post-accession obligations better. The course covered a general overview of the WTO accession process and an in-depth description of agriculture-related topics, including the Agreement on Agriculture, like export subsidies, domestic support and tariff-rate quotas. The sessions helped participants from a wide range of countries, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bhutan, Iraq, Serbia, South Sudan, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, to build a better and more detailed understanding of agriculture as a critical area in WTO accession negotiations. It also enabled participants to share their experiences. The training was designed to be practical to maximize its impact on the carefully selected participants. Only delegates directly in charge of accessions and agricultural negotiations in their respective countries could join. Participants also had to have completed the WTO e-learning course on agriculture. One participant, Ms. Lolita Irgasheva, Chief Specialist at the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction of Uzbekistan said she had had "an outstanding experience" on the course. She valued "the unique chance to get familiar more in-depth with essential concepts of the agreement by virtue of which we, as policymakers, succeeded to comprehend in which direction to move further." The substantive programme was tailored to respond to delegates' interests, and the organizers awarded certificates to participants when they completed the training.
One of the potential stumbling blocks for Uzbekistan on the road to its full-fledged World Trade Organization (WTO) Membership is ensuring its compliance with the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). This can be challenging as the entry into force of the TFA creates binding obligations for all WTO members to improve the transparency, predictability, fairness and efficiency of cross-border environment. But introducing the right reforms should have massive positive impacts on the Uzbek economy: complying with the TFA will boost the speed and efficiency of cross-border trade procedures while reducing cost. To support Uzbekistan in its efforts to implement impactful trade reforms, the European Union (EU) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) have come together to hold a 5-days virtual workshop gathering the relevant national public and private stakeholders. This workshop was organized in close collaboration with national partners, in particular the Ministry of Foreign Investment and Trade (MIFT), under the umbrella of the two EU-funded projects that ITC implements in Uzbekistan and which are complementarity in supporting the country to facilitate trade: - The "Ready4Trade - Central Asia" project, which will enhance the transparency of cross-border regulatory requirements, remove regulatory and procedural barriers to trade, strengthen businesses' capacity to comply with trade formalities and standards, and improve cross-border e-commerce. - The "Facilitating the process of Uzbekistan's Accession to the WTO" project, which aims to strengthen and operationalize the National Trade Facilitation Committee (NFTC) and contribute with to the alignment of national legislation with the TFA among others. Last week's workshop had a 2-prong objective: Help participating stakeholders better understand the TFA, its implications, and expected benefits- in particular for the private sector- and determine Uzbekistan's current level of compliance with the TFA measures. Enhance participants' awareness on the need and the necessary means for the set-up of a sustainable NFTC as primary trade facilitation coordination mechanism, the NFTC will play a critical role in helping the country implement the right legal changes. To that end, the State Customs Committee (SCC) has been identified as the main partner for the implementation of the trade facilitation portal under the overall coordination of the MIFT. The workshop represented an important capacity-building exercise for the participants, as stated by Lolita Irgasheva, Chief Specialist at the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction of the Republic of Uzbekistan: "I would like to express my deep gratitude for the assistance provided during the sessions of the workshop, which, in my opinion, were useful and understandable for all participants. The experts paid special attention to clarifying important aspects of TF Agreement." This online workshop also highlighted the need to continuously involve the business community, including women-led enterprises, while designing the reforms and provided an opportunity for the participants to discuss the possible next steps towards the implementation of trade facilitation reforms, NTFC operationalization and the development of detailed work plan for selected measures. The current economic context brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic makes these improvements in the legislation more pertinent and important than ever, in particular to ease the flow of critical goods and services, while helping Uzbekistan managing the pandemic's drastic economic consequences.
State Trading Enterprise policies are an integral part of the regulatory environment set by the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The STEs have the potential to influence markets significantly. They can be operated in ways that can create distortions to international trade. STEs-related policies are therefore increasingly important in the context of WTO accession negotiations. In collaboration with the WTO Secretariat, two workshops were organized this month for Uzbekistan's Government officials representing the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade (MIFT), the State Assets Management Agency, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction and the Antimonopoly Committee. Participants were introduced to the main WTO rules and principles of STEs activities, as well as the main guiding documents on STEs. Definitions and types of enterprises to be classified as STE were explained in detail. The training included the general framework that covers compliance with four main principles which are non-discrimination, prohibition of quantitative restrictions on imports/exports, preservation of the value of tariff concessions, and transparency. General exceptions related to government procurement were explained to the participants. The trainers clarified, that while STEs are not prohibited by the WTO, the WTO rules and undertaken commitments regarding the STEs during the accession process must be observed. WTO requirements related to the STEs notification, which are relevant to the WTO accession process were also looked at during the training. The workshops will help fill the gaps with understanding the rules on STEs and provide impetus to bilateral and multilateral talks. The International Trade Centre organized this training through the "Facilitating the Process of Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO" project. It is a five-year initiative funded by the European Union (EU) that aims to support Uzbekistan's development plans to modernize its economy through leveraging the process of the country`s accession to the organization.
Telecommunications is a rapidly evolving sector in most economies and the regulatory environment in which it operates attracts a great deal of attention. The regulatory regime related to this, set by the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), becomes increasingly important to countries acceding to the organization. In collaboration with the WTO, the International Trade Centre recently organized a workshop for Uzbekistan, to provide insights into crucial telecommunications regulatory principles and multilateral arrangements. Participants gained a thorough understanding of key regulatory disciplines of relevance to the telecommunications services sector. In particular, Provisions of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), including its Annex on Telecommunications, and the WTO Reference Paper on Basic Telecommunications were discussed in detail. The participating Uzbek government officials, involved in the WTO accession negotiations, learnt about the experiences of recently acceded WTO-member countries, with emphasis on their trade liberalizing practices and scheduling commitments. Issues related to the local telecommunications market in Uzbekistan, such as ensuring a balanced development of urban and rural sector as required by the National Development Strategy “Digital Uzbekistan – 2030,” were also touched upon during the event. Representatives from the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade, the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications, and the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, together with the national telecommunications operator - JSC “UZBEKTELEKOM” attended the training. The International Trade Centre organized this training through the “Facilitating the Process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO” project. It is a five-year initiative funded by the European Union (EU) that aims to support Uzbekistan's development plans to modernize its economy through leveraging the process of the country`s accession to the organization.
The International Trade Centre organized a three-day intensive virtual workshop on the principles and provisions of the WTO Agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) from 11 to 13 August for high-level cadre of the relevant institutions in Uzbekistan. This event brought together senior officers of Uzstandard, Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health, State Committee for Veterinary Medicine and Livestock Development, State Inspection on Plant Quarantine, and State Customs Committee. The workshop not only helped in improving the understanding of the two WTO Agreements, but also shared knowledge on the good practices for implementation of these two Agreements. This was made possible through effective interaction with the participants and practical exercises. Preparedness to implement these Agreements will pave the way for Uzbekistan to become a member of the WTO. Mr. Batir Allaev, the Deputy Head of International Cooperation at Uzstandard said this workshop was highly beneficial for those involved in dealing with WTO Agreements in Uzbekistan. He also said that it had provided a great opportunity not only to learn the principles and provisions of the related Agreements, but also to get a better understanding of the most critical TBT and SPS issues related to international trade. It was agreed that the International Trade Centre would continue to support the review of the evolving national legislation related to standardization, technical regulations, conformity assessment and SPS measures. ITC would also provide some support to strengthen the related institutions in line with best practices. This workshop was organized under the project 'Facilitating Uzbekistan`s Accession to the WTO' which is a five-year initiative funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by ITC. The project aims to support Uzbekistan's development plans to modernize its economy through leveraging the process of country`s accession to the WTO.
Advisory Support is a Key COVID-19 could not stand in the way of a series of webinars for sharing technical expertise to facilitate the process of Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO, taking place since April 2020. These information and knowledge sharing training sessions were conducted to ensure that national legislation complies with WTO principles and related best practices. During sessions on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) related issues, participants familiarized themselves with internationally accepted rules and principles on standards, technical regulations, certifications, testing and inspection and enforcement of laws. Experts from the International Trade Centre (ITC) also explained International Organization for Standardization (ISO) good standardization practices and the difference between voluntary standard and mandatory technical regulations approaches. Uzstandard, the Ministry of Health, the State Veterinary Committee, and the State Plant Quarantine Inspection are on board for discussions around TBT and SPS matters. These evidence-based working sessions come at a time when draft documents for standardization, technical regulation, certification of products and services, assessment laws and their conformity with WTO rules and regulations, and international best practices are being discussed and elaborated. Next Steps Guidelines on setting up and operationalizing the national enquiry points and notification function and a national committee for coordination are in preparation. A follow up interactive webinar sessions will take place in August 2020. For Intellectual Property Rights, ITC will continue assisting Uzbekistan in reviewing its national legislation and ensuring its consistency with WTO rules and international intellectual property conventions. Uzbekistan’s Accession to the WTO These initiatives support Uzbekistan resumed efforts to accede to the WTO. The process had been initiated back in 1994, but was frozen in 2005. The country filed its formal application for accession to the WTO in March 2018. This was followed by updating the Memorandum of Foreign Trade Regime in July 2019 – a comprehensive document reflecting key facts about the country’s trade and regulatory regime. In order to resume the Working Party (WP) process on accession to WTO, Uzbekistan has submitted a number of required documents, including initial offers on goods and services. Benefitting from ITC’s technical advisories, on July 7 2020, the country`s Fourth Working Party Meeting on Accession to the WTO took place after fifteen years of standstill in the negotiations. The ambition of Uzbekistan to become a fully-fledged WTO member is supported by ITC through an EU funded five-year project, that aims to assist Uzbekistan’s development plans to modernize the economy and to facilitate the creation in Uzbekistan of a trading regime in conformity with the WTO rules.
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