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.