Seychelles has concluded the last outstanding bilateral trade negotiations with the United States
In a press statement issued this afternoon, the Seychelles Ministry of Finance, Trade and Investment said the final bilateral agreement was signed in Geneva Switzerland, yesterday.
The Indian ocean archipelago’s Ambassador in Brussels, Vivianne Fock-Tave signed the agreement on behalf of the Seychelles government whilst Ambassador Michael Punke signed for the United States of America.
“With the signing of this last bilateral agreement Seychelles has now overcome the final hurdle toward accession, in what has been a lengthy and arduous, but nevertheless rewarding process,” read the statement.
“Seychelles will now host its 8th Working Party meeting in Geneva next month, which is expected to be the last, prior to formal acceptance into the organisation.”
Following the Seychelles’ sixth WTO Accession Working Party meeting in July, the Director-General of the Trade Division, in the Ministry of Finance, Trade and Investment, Cillia Mangroo told SNA that Seychelles is hopeful that it will join WTO in 2014.
“From our meetings with other countries and the WTO secretariat, it is a target that we can meet,” she said.
In today’s statement following the signing of the last bilateral agreement with the United States, the Ministry of Finance, Trade and Investment said Seychelles’ acceptance as a member of the WTO is expected to be made at the organisation’s Council meeting, to be held in December this year.
The process of becoming a WTO member is unique to each applicant country, but takes an average of about five years for most nations. The longest accession negotiation of a current member is currently that of Russia, which became a member of the WTO on 22 August 2012, 19 years after applying.
However, Seychelles is expected to surpass that record even if accession is granted by the end of the year.
Seychelles initially requested membership to the WTO on May 31, 1995, and made very little progress up until it re-initiated the process in 2008. One of the main challenges Seychelles faced was the limited expertise and experience within its national institutions in trade negotiations and in general and multilateral negotiations in particular.
For a small island developing state with a population of just over 90,000, the question as to whether Seychelles should join the organisation has been a contentious one in the past, particularly given the costs involved, such as the costs related to the accession process, the costs of preparing local stakeholders for trade in the globalized world, and the costs of ensuring that local businesses remain competitive.
Since 2008, the government made a significant amount of progress to identify the required legislative changes. By 2010, Seychelles had submitted offers in both Goods and Services, and also established a Working Party.
Before yesterday’s signing with the US, Seychelles had already completed bilateral trade negotiations with eight other WTO members that requested talks via Seychelles’ working party, namely Canada, the European Union, Japan, Mauritius, Oman, South Africa, Switzerland and Thailand.
The WTO’s membership currently stands at 160 member states, accounting for over 97 percent of the world’s total trade.