Session to discuss cooperation with World Trade Organization

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Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko gave an instruction to energize the process of negotiations on Belarus’ accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). He made the statement at the session held on 29 March to discuss the interaction with this organization.

“On the one hand, it is obvious that Belarus cannot but integrate into the global trade network because Belarus’ economy is export oriented and the external market conditions have a strong impact on the wellbeing of the country,” the head of state said.

“But the entry into the WTO should not become an end in itself for us. Observing the national interests during the negotiations is the key principle,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The President asked the meeting participants to give specific arguments both in favor of and against Belarus’ accession to the WTO.

The head of state also asked whether Belarusian producers will be able to operate under the WTO terms, i.e. when the majority of the existing non-tariff regulation measures and state support are canceled.

The President also inquired about what else needs to be done at the government level to protect the country’s economic interests if Belarus enters the WTO.

“The main thing is to decide whether we need it in the current conditions,” the head of state said.

“Just recently they said we were not welcome there. Today we are encouraged to take this step. By whom? Do we have well-wishers in the world? No. There is tough competition in the economy. When our competitors are pushing us to do something I always think about the reasons why they are doing so,” the President noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that, in fact, two powerful unions have been established. These are the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“What is the purpose of the World Trade Organization in the global perspective today? When I am discussing this issue with colleagues, they say that the WTO has actually exhausted itself,” the Belarusian leader added.

“I am not speaking about small unions such as Mercosur, the Eurasian Economic Union, etc. There are plenty of them in the world. But these two huge associations, I think, will be hardly willing to take the WTO requirements into account. They will protect their members,” Aleksandr Lukashenko believes.

“Therefore, today we need to decide what we are going to do with our bid to join the World Trade Organization,” the President concluded.

Belarus’ main partners, Russia and Kazakhstan, are the members of the WTO. “We have to take this into account. Nevertheless, there is a certain degree of freedom for us. We are not bound by the WTO rules and regulations. Do we need this degree of freedom or not? Will we benefit from the accession to the WTO or will this just impose certain obligations on us?” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked the meeting participants.

The President said that partners should observe the principles of transparency and consistency.

“Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus conducted very intensive negotiations. I remember the agreements which existed between us back then,” the Belarusian leader said. He noted that the Russian side once said that after the formation of the Customs Union the countries will determine the criteria of accession to the WTO. According to the President, some time after Russia became a member of the WTO and suggested creating the Customs Union and the economic union on the principles of this organization. Later Kazakhstan joined the WTO without informing partners.

“In fact, Belarus is the only country of the three that did not joint the WTO,” the head of state said.

In his opinion, in this situation Belarus has to protect its interests taking into account the agreements with partners.

The participants of the session discussed all benefits and risks of Belarus’ accession to the World Trade Organization. After the discussion they made a decision to intensify the talks on the accession of Belarus to the WTO.