Brussels, 26 October 2011 - The General Council of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) today cleared the way for the WTO accession of Vanuatu, one of the 14 island states in the Pacific. The European Commission welcomes this development which will bring the number of WTO member countries up to 154.

Vanuatu's WTO accession is expected to make a positive and lasting contribution to the process of economic reform and sustainable development in the country, which ranges amongst the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) according to United Nations criteria. The EU supports the full integration of Vanuatu's economy into the multilateral trading system and welcomes that the terms of accession are fully in line with the developmental requirements of this small and vulnerable economy.

Following the decision by the General Council, which is made up of all WTO Member States, Vanuatu now has 6 months to ratify its accession package. It will become a full Member of the WTO 30 days after the ratification date.

After its accession Vanuatu will benefit not only from market openings, but also from the solid set of rules provided for by the WTO framework which create conditions for increased trade and investment.

Vanuatu applied for WTO membership in 1995. In order to prepare for its accession, it has engaged in a number of comprehensive reforms to make its domestic framework consistent with WTO provisions as from the date of accession. Transitional periods will apply regarding intellectual property rights and the publication of trade information.

In accordance with guidelines adopted by the WTO General Council in 2002 on the accession of Least Developed Countries, WTO members have taken into account the specific situation of Vanuatu and exercised restraint in seeking concessions and commitments. The average most-favoured-nation tariff rate applied on industrial goods is around 40% and on agricultural goods 43% of the price. Vanuatu's schedule of specific commitments in services is satisfactory considering its LDC status. Vanuatu's major trading partners are South Korea and, to a lesser extent, Thailand, Japan, Australia and Singapore.

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