US, Kazakhstan sign protocol on completion of WTO negotiations

The protocol on the completion of the bilateral negotiations between the United States and Kazakhstan on Astana’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) was signed on Wednesday by the two countries’ governments. The document was signed on behalf of the Kazakh side by Minister for Economic Integration of Kazakhstan Zhanar Aitzhanova and on behalf of the American side by US Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis, Itar-Tass reported.

The completion of the bilateral talks with the United States on WTO accession that were held in Washington is for Kazakhstan an important step towards its joining this international organisation. Astana hopes to join WTO next year.

The signing of the protocol was preceded by technical consultations on the issue of access of US service providers to the Kazakh market. This was one of the key conditions for Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO. Of particular interest were the issues of supply of services for companies engaged in the production of oil and natural gas, telecommunications, construction, cross-border and financial services.

“On the negotiations results the parties agreed on terms that are to improve the investment climate in the above sectors of the economy of Kazakhstan,” Aitzhanova told Itar-Tass. “These agreements will allow the Kazakh government to pursue the policy in line with the country’s national economic interests, particularly in favour of Kazakhstan’s service providers and for improvement of employment in the country as a whole.”

According to the minister, “the reached agreements will create a more favourable climate and stimulate additional investment in the above-mentioned sectors of services, mainly in the processing and creation of new industries in Kazakhstan.” The United States is a key investor in Kazakhstan, foreign direct investment into the republic from 1993 to 2011 amounted to about $40 billion.

Aitzhanova reported that during her meetings with Special Assistant to the US President Michael McFaul and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, “the US side reiterated its substantial interest for the early accession of Kazakhstan to the WTO and promised to provide assistance in the multilateral negotiations in Geneva.”

According to the Office of the US Trade Representative, Kazakhstan applied for membership in the WTO in April 1996 and circulated its Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime in September 1996. Kazakhstan’s Working Party met for the first time in March 1997. At a meeting of the Working Party, held in July 2008, Members reviewed the revised draft Working Party report and identified remaining issues relating to Kazakhstan’s compliance with WTO provisions. Kazakhstan outlined its legislative agenda to complete implementation of WTO provisions and indicated that it was prepared to address the outstanding issues that Members identified and move forward to make commitments.

These multilateral negotiations are well advanced, as is Kazakhstan’s legislative implementation of WTO provisions.

The United States actively participates in Kazakhstan’s Working Party meetings, and has engaged in bilateral consultations on WTO rules and other WP issues with the Government of Kazakhstan. There will be additional bilateral discussions on multilateral issues prior to the next meeting of the Working Party.

Kazakhstan has accelerated work on its bilateral negotiations with Members on market access for goods and services, and has signed bilateral market access agreements with most Working Party Members. It is intensifying bilateral work to conclude market access agreements with the remaining Working Party Members seeking agreements, including with the United States. At US bilateral market access consultations with Kazakhstan in April 2009 by digital videoconference (DVC) the topics covered over the four days included market access for services, sanitary measures applied to imports, legislation on intellectual property protection, and a plan for further negotiations.

The United States has provided comprehensive technical assistance (through USAID) from the very inception of Kazakhstan’s accession process, in the form of a WTO advisor, resident in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, and a team of WTO experts on short term assignment for drafting documentation submitted to the WTO, training, legal drafting, and institution building in the areas of customs, licensing, intellectual property, standards and sanitary measures.

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