Monthly Meeting on January 25, 2018

The January monthly meeting was dedicated to issues surrounding Uzbekistan’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). USAID International Expert Mr. Jovan Jekic provided an overview of the process, as well as potential implications for an Uzbekistan with WTO membership.

The history of WTO, basic principles, rules, and the accession experience of other WTO member countries was described in detail by Mr. Jekic in his speech. As a member driven organization, WTO members must closely examine trade regimes to ensure full compliance, as partial compliance is not acceptable. Only when all member countries are happy with candidate country results are they finally invited to become a member. While it may be easy to talk about, compliance is much more complicated in practice.

The time and effort required to make the legislation of the candidate country compliant with WTO rules, especially when it comes to import tariff duties, is extensive. The voice of each country, regardless of international economic standing, is taken in equal consideration for any decision or dispute regarding another WTO member. One of the Mr. Jekic’s favorite examples is the case of Antigua and Barbuda when it won compensation from the United States in a long-running trade dispute about gambling. The WTO panel said Antigua was entitled to compensation of $21 million a year from the United States for being shut out of the U.S. online gambling market.

Uzbekistan applied for accession to WTO in 1994. Several discussions were held; however since 2005 there was no further activity in the process. Today, however, Uzbekistan’s willingness to become a WTO member is clear. Uzbek policymakers are ambitious in their plans to join WTO within 18 months. For regional comparison, Tajikistan completed the process in 11 years, but it took Kazakhstan a full 20 years to become a WTO member.

Mr. Jovan Jekic serves as a trade consultant for USAID’s Competitiveness, Trade and Jobs (CTJ) in Central Asia Activity. He is a senior attorney with over 35 years of experience in international commercial law, intellectual property, customs rules and procedures, business regulatory environment, trade and investment policies. For the past fifteen years, he has worked on donor funded projects covering areas such as World Trade Organization (WTO) accession and business environment improvement, trade facilitation and related institutional capacity building. He provided extensive technical assistance in the accession process for Tajikistan, and served as Chief of Party on the USAID WTO Accession Project for Serbia and Montenegro.