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US, Kazakhstan Sign Protocol on Completion of WTO Negotiations

Thursday 22 September 2011

(Itar-Tass) – The protocol on the completion of the bilateral negotiations between the United States and Kazakhstan on Astana’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) was signed on Wednesday by the two countries’ governments. The document was signed on behalf of the Kazakh side by Minister for Economic Integration of Kazakhstan Zhanar Aitzhanova and on behalf of the American side by US Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis.

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Kazakhstan and the world economy: An assessment of Kazakhstan’s trade policy and pending accession to the WTO (PDF)
The results of an econometric study show that membership of the WTO would lead to only small immediate trade benefits, as Kazakhstan has already liberalised its trade policy considerably and the majority of its exports, oil and minerals are not covered by WTO agreements. The benefits would primarily come through the import side. Kazakhstan could therefore argue that WTO members ask only a low “price of membership” in the conditions it sets. However WTO membership would provide Kazakhstan with a lock-in mechanism that can help increase investor confidence. If Kazakhstan attained a similar level of institutional quality as in the European Union, quantitative assessment suggests that trade can increase by 75%.

The completion of the bilateral talks with the United States on WTO accession that were held in Washington is for Kazakhstan an important step towards its joining this international organisation. Astana hopes to join WTO next year.

The signing of the protocol was preceded by technical consultations on the issue of access of US service providers to the Kazakh market. This was one of the key conditions for Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO. Of particular interest were the issues of supply of services for companies engaged in the production of oil and natural gas, telecommunications, construction, cross-border and financial services.

Negotiations on Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO and efforts to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan were moving in parallel. The idea of establishing a single customs territory was initiated earlier but the process of harmonizing tariffs within the creation of the Customs Union demanded flexibility from every member and a transition period was introduced for some major commodities sensitive for Kazakhstan. The pace for creating the Customs Union has been, to a large extent, dependent on the political will from the Governments of the three states. Therefore, promotion of trade and economic cooperation with the neighbouring countries has become the most important priority.

Nevertheless, Kazakhstan continued its individual accession to the WTO. Kazakhstan Delegation headed by the First Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Umirzak Shukeyev visited Washington DC in September 2010 to hold bilateral consultations with the USTR. Kazakhstan’s team reassured American counterparts that the accession to the WTO has always been top priority for Kazakhstan’s foreign policy.

The United States welcomes progress achieved by Kazakhstan in bringing its legislation in compliance with the WTO rules and supports its continuous trade liberalization process. In particular, such issues as sanitary and phytosanitary measures, intellectual property rights and veterinary certificates were at the final stage of negotiations.

Kazakhstan and the United States have developed 2010-2011 action plan for completion of the bilateral negotiations. Kazakhstan has finalized negotiations with the Unites States on Goods market access. Minister of Economic Development and Trade Zhanar Aitzhanova signed a document with U.S. Representative to the WTO Michael Punke in Geneva. Kazakhstan hopes to join WTO by January 1st 2012.

Customs Union members have agreed to coordinate together issues related to the Customs Union as Common external tariff is effective since January 1st 2010. A single unified team including Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus are holding multilateral negotiations in Geneva to work on compliance of Customs Union legislation in accordance with WTO standards.

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