Brussels, 28 May 2009 - The European Union and Yemen have concluded bilateral market access negotiations on Yemen’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. This is an important step leading towards the accession of Yemen to the WTO.

EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said: "I am delighted that the EU is among the first WTO Members to conclude bilateral negotiations with Yemen. This is a clear demonstration of our commitment to facilitate the accession of least developed countries to the WTO. I shall certainly continue to give my support to help Yemen integrate into the global rules based trading system, as I'm convinced that it is a key lever for economic development."

A step closer to Yemen's accession to the WTO

Yemen applied for WTO membership in July 2000 and negotiations started in 2005 with the submission of initial offers on goods and services. Yemen has made steady progress towards concluding the accession negotiations and has shown that it made the most out the technical assistance provided by the EU and other donors.

In the negotiations, the EU fully took into account Yemen's development needs and domestic policies. In goods trade, the market access commitments undertaken foresee the binding of all tariff lines at an average level below 40% for agricultural products and below 30% for non-agricultural products.

In services, Yemen will make commitments in a broad range of sectors which are essential to attract investment and build up the economic infrastructure necessary for Yemen's development and growth. These include professional services, computer and related services, telecommunications, construction, distribution, educational, environmental, financial, health related, travel, tourism and transport services.

Over the 2007-10 period, the European Commission is providing over EUR 142 million of development and humanitarian support for Yemen. Bilateral trade in goods between the EU and Yemen was worth around EUR 1.3 billion in 2007.

Accession of Least Developed Countries to the WTO

The WTO agreed in December 2002 a simplified and accelerated procedure for the accession of Least Developed Countries (LDC) to the WTO, as part of the work programme adopted at Doha.

The main features of this procedure are:

WTO Members will refrain from asking acceding LDCs to make excessive concessions or commitments, notably those incompatible with their individual development, financial and trade needs;

Granting of transitional periods to enable acceding LDCs to effectively implement commitments and obligations;

Good offices of the Director-General available throughout the process to assist LDCs and the chairpersons of the LDCs Accession working parties;

WTO Secretariat support in information exchange and accession procedures;

Technical assistance provided by Members on a priority basis to cover all stages of th accession process, from the preparation of documentation to the enforcement of WTO rules.

This procedure builds on the initiative launched by the EU in 1999 aimed at facilitating accession of poorest countries to the WTO, taken up in turn by the Third UN Conference on LDCs in Brussels in May 2001.

The EU has pledged to commit EUR2 billion annually to Trade Related Assistance by 2010. New figures indicate that this goal was almost met already in 2007, with total commitments from EU Member States of EUR960 million and European Commission funding of EUR1,020 million. The EU is also the only important donor with an established Aid for Trade Strategy (since October 2007). This is an important tool to channel more and better EU support, and anchor Aid for Trade more firmly into EU development cooperation.

There are currently 12 LDCs in the process of acceding to the WTO: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Comoros, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Lao PDR, Liberia, Samoa, Sao Tomé e Principe, Sudan, Vanuatu and Yemen. Thirty-two LDCs are already members of the WTO.


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