Timor-Leste officially becomes full member of the WTO

Timor-Leste officially becomes full member of the WTO

Image Tatoli/Joanico de Araújo

DILI, 26 february 2024 (TATOLI) – Timor-Leste officially became a full member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) at the WTO’s 13th ministerial meeting, in Abu Dhabi, on monday (26/02).

The Protocol of the Accession of the Timor-Leste to WTO was signed at the end of the ceremony by the Vice-Prime Minister and Minister Coordinator for Economic Affairs and Minister of Tourism and Environment, Francisco Kalbuadi Lay, and WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

At the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13), the WTO also approved the membership terms of Comoros, bringing the number of WTO members to 166.

The formal accession of Timor-Leste and the Comoros to the World Trade Organization (WTO) marked the first countries to join the organization in eight years.

According to Okonjo-Iweala, twenty-two more countries are seeking to follow in Timor-Leste and Comoros’ footsteps — many of them were present in Abu Dhabi, including a sizeable contingent from the world Arab: “We look forward to adding to that number in the years ahead.”

 “Trade ministers unanimously welcomed both WTO membership deals, which were approved at the MC13 opening ceremony attended by President Azali Assoumani of Comoros and President José Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste,” WTO reported.

According to WTO, once the membership is approved by the General Council of Ministerial Conference, the applicant is then free to sign the Protocol of Accession stating that it accepts the approved “accessions package” subject to ratification in its national parliament. Normally three months is given from signature of the Protocol of Accession for this to take place. Thirty days after the applicant government notifies the WTO Secretariat that it has completed its ratification procedures, the applicant government becomes a full Member of the WTO.

Timor-Leste has been granted WTO observer status since 2016, and the country keeps working to take another step towards fulfilling the membership terms to become a full member of the organization.

Okonjo paid special tribute to the governments of both countries for “this historic achievement” and for having undertaken an extensive program of domestic reforms to accelerate economic growth despite very challenging circumstances.

She said: “I am delighted to say that we are kicking off this meeting with some excellent news. Here at MC13, the WTO is welcoming its first new members in almost eight years: Timor-Leste and Comoros. We celebrate the hard work they have put in, and the beneficial but challenging reforms they have implemented at home. Both countries are least developed countries, and we are excited to see them reap the gains of membership as they become new members of the WTO.”

In his speech at the event, the President of the Republic, Jose Ramos Horta said: “Being a WTO member is essential to unleash the potential of our economy in several sectors. We are committed to diversify our economy, become a part of the value chain of the global economy, and to improve the life of our people through trade.”

Horta and Timor-Leste’s delegation team at the MC13 were delighted to witness the formal accession of the country’s accession to the organization.

A day before Timor-Leste’s formal accession to WTO, President Horta awarded the Order of Timor-Leste to the WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in recognition of her remarkable contribution and support to the country’s accession process to World Trade Organization (WTO).

Horta extended his heartfelt appreciation to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and WTO officials for their support in guiding Timor-Leste towards its accession to the organization.

“The Order of Timor-Leste is awarded to Director-General Ngozi as a token of appreciation for her dedication and work in leading the Working Party in various meetings on Timor-Leste’s preparation for its accession to the WTO,” said President Horta.

Timor-Leste submitted its application for accession to the WTO in november 2016 as part of a broader national trade strategy to integrate the country further into the world economy to promote economic growth and development.

Timor-Leste’s WTO accession process started on december 7, 2006, through the establishment of the Working Group.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is the only international organization that regulates international trade activities.

WTO was founded in 1995 and its existence is based on an agreement whose objective is to help producers of goods, exporters, and importers in each of the member countries to carry out their commercial activities in accordance with international rules, guaranteeing security and transparency.


Journalist: Joanico de Araújo

Editor: Rafael Ximenes de A. Belo

Translation: Filomeno Martins


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