VITEBSK(BelTA) – A national center on World Trade Organization affairs will be set up in Belarus by 2020, BelTA learned from Maksim Gubsky, supervisor of the UNDP project on assisting the Belarusian government with joining the WTO by enhancing the national institutional capacity and expertise.
The WTO affairs center will perform consulting functions, including the analysis of economic consequences of joining the WTO. It will work out recommendations on improving the national laws and will provide expert assistance with Belarus' work in WTO bodies. “Joining the WTO per se is not that important. Organizing interaction with WTO members is. The center intends to do just that,” noted Maksim Gubsky.
Organizational work is now in progress. In particular, decisions are being made on which government agency will be used as the basis for establishing the center. The experience of setting up similar structures in Russia where a WTO center operates under the aegis of the central government and in Kazakhstan where the center operates under the aegis of the Economic Development Ministry is being looked into.
A roundtable session involving representatives of the private sector took place. During the session Olga Kazakevich, Head of the WTO and Trade Regimes Unification Department of the Foreign Trade Policy Office of the Foreign Economic Activities Department of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Belarus is in the epicenter of negotiations on joining the World Trade Organization. “We have negotiations with key WTO members ahead of us, including negotiations with the USA, the European Union, Canada. It is difficult to predict how long the process will take but we hope that Belarus will be able to join the World Trade Organization in 1.5-2 years,” said the official. Olga Kazakevich stressed that as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union Belarus has lived by WTO rules since 2012 because the rules lie at the heart of the EAEU legislation.
Participants of the roundtable session discussed the current situation around Belarus' accession to the WTO, the role of business associations and the private sector at this stage of the process, WTO accession problems and prospects judging from the experience of Russia and Kazakhstan, which have been WTO members since 2012 and 2015. Participants of the roundtable session also discussed additional opportunities and challenges for the development of Belarusian agriculture. Instruments to help Belarusian companies adapt to new conditions after the country joins the WTO were presented as well.
The roundtable session was arranged within the framework of the project on assisting the Belarusian government with joining the WTO by enhancing the national institutional capacity and expertise. The project is financed by the Russian government and implemented by the United Nations Development Program in association with the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Similar roundtable sessions will take place in all the oblast capitals. The final meeting will take place in Minsk on 2 November.