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Members endorse TL’s WTO accession package, ready for formal adoption in Abu Dhabi

Members endorse TL’s WTO accession package, ready for formal adoption in Abu Dhabi

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DILI, 12 january 2023 (TATOLI) – WTO members negotiating the accession of Timor-Leste on 11 january 2024 agreed by consensus, ad referendum, on the terms of the country’s WTO membership, paving the way for the least-developed country (LDC) to join the organization. With the conclusion of the Working Party’s mandate, the accession package for Timor-Leste will be submitted to ministers for a formal decision at the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi on 26-29 february.

WTO Deputy Director-General Johanna Hill conveyed the organization’s congratulations to Timor-Leste for successfully completing the work at the level of the Working Party: “It is indeed with great satisfaction we witness this year the completion of the Working Party process of a second LDC, this time from Asia, within the same week as Comoros. What a great way to start the new year at this organization as the membership prepares for MC13.

“The completion of two LDC accessions represents a significant occasion for the WTO. We are opening the door to two new members for the first time since 2016 when Afghanistan and Liberia, both LDCs, joined the organization. Welcoming two members at MC13 will send a strong message to the international community on the relevance and attractiveness of this organization as 22 more governments are wanting to join, including many LDCs and fragile and conflict-affected states,” she added.

Timor-Leste, one of the world’s youngest countries after gaining independence in 2002, has completed the accession negotiations in record time for LDC accessions – just over seven years. “What is even more remarkable is that the active negotiation process picked up only in late 2020, during the pandemic. It has moved at a rapid pace since then, driven by Timor-Leste’s strong commitment to accession and of course members’ unshaken support to the process,” noted DDG Hill.

DDG Hill paid tribute to President José Ramos-Horta for his leadership in the accession process and noted that despite all challenges, Timor-Leste has become an example of how to use the accession process to reform and modernize a country’s economy, accelerate growth and tackle LDC constraints, including by undertaking several “first LDC” accession commitments, including in market access.

Miguel Manetelu, Minister of Transport and Communication, led the Timor-Leste delegation in Geneva for the 7th and last Accession Working Party meeting. He thanked members for recognizing his country’s efforts and readiness to end this chapter of WTO accession. “The well-deserved accession of Timor-Leste to the WTO will mark an important step in Timor-Leste’s trade integration history, setting the milestone for future trade agreements and preparing the way for future challenging tasks that we will find in the way ahead.”

Manetelu stressed Timor-Leste’s commitment to becoming a more active player in international trade, able to defend its values and interests in its efforts towards achieving sustainable development. “For the country, WTO accession and membership remains, first and foremost, a vehicle to accelerate the important reforms which are essential to promote economic growth and development, transform the country into a growing, healthy and well-educated middle-class nation and to further the goal of good governance, stability and peace,” he said.

This work will continue in the post-accession period, aligned with the parallel accession of Timor-Leste to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), he noted.

The Chair of the Accession Working Party, Ambassador Rui Macieira of Portugal, acknowledged the commitment by Timor-Leste’s negotiators over the years under the political leadership of President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão. “This is the fastest accession among all the LDCs which have joined the WTO to date, as Timor-Leste has used it as a stepping stone for ASEAN accession, building a strong foundation for this young nation’s economic development,” he said.

Following the conclusion of the 7th Working Party meeting, Ambassador Macieira said he would inform the Chair of the General Council, Ambassador Athaliah Molokomme of Botswana, that the package of texts relating to the accession is ready to be presented to ministers at MC13.

The Chair also recognized the strong dedication by members who have been supporting Timor-Leste since the beginning of the accession process, including by providing technical assistance and capacity building. “It is my hope that members will continue to do so in the post-accession phase where such support is equally if not more important. I understand that the Secretariat is ready to work with Timor-Leste in the development of a Post-Accession Implementation Strategy, which will be presented at MC13 in Abu Dhabi following the adoption of the Accession Package,” he said.

Members said they are looking forward to welcoming Timor-Leste as a new WTO member at MC13. They stressed that the conclusion of negotiations is a milestone which will have a positive impact on the country’s economic development and integration into the multilateral trading system. Members underlined that Timor-Leste has set a high bar in the swift and effective way it has conducted the accession process and encouraged the country to maintain momentum in the post-accession period.

Timor-Leste is a least-developed island country at the southern extreme of the Malay Archipelago located off the south-eastern coast of Asia between the Indian and Pacific oceans, with a population of approximately 1,320,000. After gaining independence in 2002, the Government of Timor-Leste submitted its application for accession to the WTO in November 2016. The Working Party was established in December 2016.

 

Journalist: Jose Belarmino de Sa

Editor: Filomeno Martins 

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