ESCAP and International Trade Centre partner to enhance technical capacity on Afghanistan’s accession to WTO

Group photo - Afghanistan WTO accession workshop

As Afghanistan’s bid to join the WTO gains new impetus, with negotiations expected to conclude by year-end, ESCAP South and South-West Asia Office (ESCAP-SSWA) joined hands with the International Trade Centre (ITC) to organize a customized programme for public and private sector representatives involved in Afghanistan’s WTO membership accession.

The Second Technical Capacity Building Workshop on Afghanistan’s Accession to WTO: Exchanging Policy Options and Business Interests on Priority Issues was held on 17 and 18 April 2013 at the ESCAP-SSWA, Delhi. The Workshop aimed to enhance understanding of and competencies related to opportunities and challenges, and potential business implications of the country’s WTO accession negotiations. It focused on select priority areas where knowledge gaps had been identified, such as financial services, transport and energy services and trade facilitation.

The Workshop also sought to strengthen trade-related capacity and to stimulate dialogue between the various stakeholders. It brings together some 21 Government officials from Afghanistan and representatives from the private sector.

“While we serve 10 countries across South and South-West Asia, Afghanistan ranks high on our priority list. The country enjoys tremendous potential with vast natural resources and a highly strategic location, as a future hub for transport and energy trade,” noted Dr. Nagesh Kumar, Director of ESCAP - SSWA and Chief Economist of ESCAP in his welcome address. “Beyond WTO related negotiations, Afghanistan should also build its productive capacity to take advantage of WTO accession. On this front too we will strive to assist the country as much as possible,” he said.

H.E. Shaida Mohhamad Abdali, Ambassador of Afghanistan to India in his keynote address conveyed his government’s gratitude to the organizers. He said the workshop would build the “critical institutional capacity direly needed in Afghanistan.”

“We are committed to supporting cohesive efforts to unlock and harness the vast resources of our region through integration. This is possible when the countries in the region have harmonized their trade and investment regimes through full WTO membership. The region cannot afford Afghanistan’s absence from WTO and should help us accede it.”

The Workshop built on the success of an earlier programme held in August 2012 and which focused on lessons from other countries’ recent accession and their development and business implications.

“This programme builds on the conviction that an enhanced understanding of all parties of the business implications of WTO membership, its opportunities and challenges can help create conditions for vibrant export-oriented business operations. It aims to prepare the business community to reap the benefits and smoothly adjust to the post-WTO accession environment,” stated Mr. Rajesh Aggarwal, Chief, Business and Trade Policy, ITC.

A landlocked least developed country, Afghanistan depends heavily on transit through neighboring countries for its sea borne trade. The absence of regional transit trade, compounded with inadequate and poor infrastructure services such as road and railway links has also severely inhibited the country’s efforts to integrate into global supply chains while also raising transportation cost.

About ESCAP-SSWA

Established in December 2011 in New Delhi, ESCAP South and South-West Asia Office (http://sswa.unescap.org) assists 10 member countries in the region namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Turkey and Sri Lanka achieve inclusive and sustainable development through its normative and analytical work, policy advocacy and capacity-building activities and the promotion of regional cooperation.