Helping Businesses Navigate WTO Accession

Accessions to the World Trade Organization (WTO) have profound implications for the private sector. The market liberalization required by accession commitments must be accompanied by deep structural reforms. Even though least-developed countries (LDCs) and developing countries usually benefit from special and differential treatment, the liberalization process can still lead to market adjustments that can test the status quo and require actions that will impact the private sector. This chapter discusses how the private and public sectors have cooperated to make the most of accession, while mitigating its risks. The chapter concludes that the business community values predictability. Therefore, acceding governments should find a way to integrate the private sector in the negotiating process. Gaining a thorough understanding of the objectives and implications of accession, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is a good starting point for building a partnership between the acceding government and its private sector. The acceding government should also seek consensus with the private sector on key accession commitments, on the direction of reform desired by stakeholders at the local level, and allow sufficient time to prepare the private sector to adjust to the expected changes in the business environment. The experience of recently acceded governments has shown that regular engagement with the private sector before, during and after accession enables new WTO members to make deeper liberalization commitments. When these commitments are the result of a consultative process between policy-makers and business, the likelihood of their successful implementation is greater.

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