In the ninth meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of the Union of the Comoros to the World Trade Organization (WTO), held on October 5th, WTO members acknowledged the substantial progress achieved by Comoros in finalizing its WTO accession negotiations. The delegation from Comoros reaffirmed its commitment to overcoming remaining obstacles and signing its protocol of accession at the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13), scheduled for February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.
Chaired by Ambassador Omar Zniber of Morocco, the Working Party welcomed a high-level delegation led by Mr. Ahmed Ali Bazi, Minister of Economy, Industry, Investment, and WTO chief negotiator. The delegation comprised senior officials from customs and the Ministry of Economy, along with Mr. Ahamada Baco, Vice-President of the National Assembly, and Mr. Chamsoudine Ahmed, President of the Chamber of Commerce.
Ambassador Zniber highlighted that significant progress had been made by Comoros since the previous Working Party meeting in January this year. He noted that a crucial milestone was reached in May when WTO members verified Comoros' draft Goods and Services Schedules, following bilateral negotiations on market access agreements.
"The draft Accession Package is now ready for consideration by the Working Party, with two of its three key elements in place," stated the Chair.
The third element, the draft Report of the Working Party, which covers the applicant country's commitments concerning market opening and adherence to WTO rules, was reported to be at an advanced stage of technical maturity. Ambassador Zniber acknowledged the progress made, including firm commitments reflected in unbracketed paragraphs within the draft Report and the development of issue-specific action plans integrated into the final version.
Ambassador Zniber expressed gratitude to Comoros for its domestic legislative reforms to align its foreign trade regime with WTO rules, emphasizing the importance of seeing this effort through to completion.
Minister Bazi updated members on recent legislative reforms in Comoros, specifically in areas such as copyright and customs procedures, aimed at aligning with WTO rules.
Members voiced their full support for Comoros in its WTO accession efforts and commended the country's progress. Several members highlighted the significance of accessions and expressed their commitment to providing technical assistance, particularly in the post-accession phase.
WTO Deputy Director-General Zhang Xiangchen highlighted WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's commitment to facilitating the accession of least developed countries (LDCs) by MC13. He noted regular communication between DG Okonjo-Iweala and the President of Comoros, Azali Assoumani, regarding the remaining steps to conclude accession negotiations before MC13. Additionally, the WTO Secretariat has intensified its efforts to coordinate technical assistance to Comoros and will assist in preparing the Post-Accession Implementation Strategy in the coming months.
DDG Zhang emphasized that Comoros' accession process had entered its final stage and expressed hope for Comoros to soon join the WTO community.
Ambassador Zniber expressed his desire to hold the final Working Party meeting as soon as possible, ideally before the end of the year. He urged members to make significant progress before the end of October, emphasizing the importance of MC13 as an ideal platform to celebrate Comoros' accession.
He concluded by stating, "It is time for the WTO to open its doors again to countries seeking accession and send a clear message to the world that it is a vibrant and responsive organization, addressing countries' concerns, particularly those of LDCs."