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Negotiators’ Perspectives on the WTO Accession Process
Pierre Laporte, Country Director of the World Bank for Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Togo,
Charles Morin, Chief Negotiator for trade agreements in Seychelles,
Cillia Mangroo, Principal Secretary for the Trade Department in the Ministry of Finance, Trade and Economic Planning in the Seychelles Government
Seychelles became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2015 after an accession process that took almost twenty years to complete. Since the relaunch of its accession process in 2009, Seychelles has undertaken significant trade reforms as part of a broader economic modernization agenda. These trade reforms were anchored on the reform commitments taken by the government as part of accession to the WTO. Although it is still too early to evaluate the full impact and benefits of WTO membership, this chapter offers insights into the negotiation process and weighs the costs and benefits of WTO accession from the perspective of a small country. The main lessons for small economies aspiring to become WTO members are that: (i) WTO accession is a long and arduous process that makes heavy demands on a small country's resources; (ii) small and developing countries should not expect any special treatment from larger and older members of the WTO; (iii) accession provides a good platform for modernization of a country's trade regime; and (iv) accession can have a positive impact on a country's ratings among rating agencies, international financial institutions and private investors.
Seychelles first submitted its application for WTO membership in 1995. However, the process stalled three years later due to a number of factors, including a difficult domestic economic context and severe capacity constraints. It was not until late 2008 that the Seychelles government announced its intention to resume the accession process, which was formally relaunched in early 2009 when the government submitted a revised Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime (MFTR). This renewed initiative to join the WTO was part of a broader economic reform programme that the government had embarked on in the last quarter of 2008.
Over the six years that followed, Seychelles was able to successfully implement all necessary actions, including amendments to its legal and institutional framework, as well as complete the bilateral agreements needed to seal WTO accession. In October 2014, the Seychelles accession working party adopted the accession package ad referendum, followed by the General Council approval of the package in December of the same year.
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