Samoa has moved a step closer to formal World Trade Organisation membership.
Last Friday the Working Party on Samoa’s accession cleared the path for its WTO membership by approving the package which spells out Samoa’s terms of accession. The package includes the reforms to Samoa’s trade regime, the market access schedules on goods and services, the draft General Council Decision and the draft Protocol of Accession. Samoa applied for WTO membership on 15 April 1998.
Samoa’s accession package will now go to the Eighth Ministerial Conference to take place on 15-17 December 2011, for formal adoption by Ministers.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said: “Samoa’s accession to the WTO is a sign of confidence in the organization and the global trading system. WTO membership will enable Samoa to participate more fully in the global economy and will provide the country with a predictable and stable basis for growth and development. Samoa’s accession brings good news to the WTO family as we gather for the 8th Ministerial Conference.”
Samoa’s Chief Executive Officer from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Auelua Samuelu Enari, said that the Working Party decision marked a substantial milestone achievement for Samoa’s WTO accession process, paving the way for Samoa’s integration into the multilateral trading system and reinforcing its participation in the global trade economy. He added that WTO accession was a worthwhile investment in the long run for Samoa’s economic development.
Samoa committed that from the date of accession, it will fully apply all WTO provisions and did not require recourse to any transitional period except on intellectual property rights, transparency, customs valuation, the import ban on left-hand drive vehicles, vehicles older than 12 years and turkey tails and turkey tail products, as well as tax treatment of imported and domestic primary products.
Other undertakings Samoa has given include:
- Full implementation of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights no later than 1 July 2013.
- By June 2012, it will fully implement the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement. By 1 January 2012, Samoa would implement the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary provisions.
- Within five years of accession, Samoa would establish a nation-wide vehicle safety inspection system for automobiles older than 12 years that could require the suspension of the vehicle’s right to use public roads. Samoa would repeal its current import ban on vehicles older than 12 years. Importation would be denied only to those vehicles that could not meet safety and environment requirements.
- Within six months of its accession, Samoa would commit that residents and owners of previously registered left-hand drive vehicles could drive them provided they observe right-hand drive driving regulations.
- Within two years of accession, Samoa would permit the importation of left-hand drive vehicles for special circumstances related to specific uses.
- With respect to the Value-Added Goods and Services Tax (VAGST) exemption applied to Samoa’s primary producers, Samoa committed to eliminate or amend the VAGST Act 1992/1993 to bring its tax treatment of imported and domestic primary products into conformity with WTO provisions within three years of accession.
- From the date of accession, Samoa would not maintain any subsidies, including export subsidies.
- Samoa will apply an average final bound rate of 21%.
Samoa will have until 15 June 2012 to ratify its accession package.
More details at the WTO website