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:
Figure 1. Foreign direct investment inflows into Cambodia and Vietnam after WTO accession