Afghanistan’s WTO membership approved after 11 years of talks

Nairobi, Dec 18 (IANS) The World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Thursday formally approved Afghanistan’s membership at its 10th ministerial conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Afghanistan has become the 164th WTO member and the 36th least developed country (LDC) to join the global trade body after 11 years of negotiations, Xinhua reported.

“Today is a historic day for Afghanistan as we reaffirm our commitment to free market economy in order to alleviate poverty and achieve lasting peace and stability,” said Mohammad Khan, Afghanistan’s first deputy chief executive, at the ceremony for the accession.

The landlocked Asian country expects to reap the benefits of the WTO membership for its post-conflict reconstruction.

“For the last decade, we have focused on rebuilding state, academic institutions and the private sector. We request the international community to provide technical capacity to enable Afghanistan to handle the post WTO accession process,” Khan said.

He said Kabul had accelerated domestic reforms in order to woo investment in key sectors of the economy, including transport infrastructure and energy.

“We are committed to greater fiscal discipline and creation of a favourable environment for trade and investments,” he said.

Roberto Azevedo, WTO director general, said Afghanistan’s membership was “an endorsement of the extensive programme of domestic reforms the country has undertaken to accelerate economic growth”.

Zou Jiayi, China’s assistant minister for finance, who was attending the WTO conference, said the admission was “a triumph of multilateralism” that inspired developing nations.

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