Kazakhstan joins World Trade Organization

WTO Director general Roberto Azevedo (R) and Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev sign the documents for the accession of  Kazakhstan at the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland July 27, 2015. © Denis Balibouse
A member of the Russia-led economic blocs - Kazakhstan - has been officially accepted as member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). This ends two decades of talks with WTO, and makes the country the 162th member.

The agreement on the country’s membership was signed Monday in Geneva; it now has to be ratified by the Kazakh parliament by October 31.

The President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev said that Kazakh economy "has become stronger and more open" since negotiations with the WTO began almost 20 years ago.

"In the mid-1990s, Kazakhstan had ties only with post-Soviet states, while now we are trading with 185 countries of the world," Nazarbayev said.

The European Union is Kazakhstan’s main economic partner, accounting for more than 54 percent of its foreign trade, according to the Kazakh President.

He also said there is a "sizable contribution" of trade with Russia, China, the United States, Canada and some other countries.

After the signing ceremony Director-General of the WTO Roberto Azevedo said he hoped that in December Kazakhstan will take part in the 10th Ministerial Conference in Kenya.

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Currently Kazakhstan is a member of two economic blocs led by Russia – the Customs Union that also includes Belarus, and the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

Strengthening cooperation

Russia counts on cooperation with Kazakhstan within the World Trade Organization, says the head of the Russian Economic Development Ministry's trade negotiations department Maxim Medvedkov.

"We’ve expected this to happen for many years. This is the result of many years of talks, with Russia’s direct participation in the last six years,” Medvedkov said.

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The signing of the protocol by Kazakhstan is a big advantage for the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, he added.

"This is the next step towards forming its international legal standing. As soon as Belarus finishes its accession to the WTO - hopefully this will happen in the near future - the union will be eligible to become a member of the organization," he said.

Kazakhstan’s WTO membership is also favorable for bilateral relations as the WTO agreement will be used in the sectors not regulated by the economic union agreement, he added. It will contribute to stability and prospects for further development of trade as the countries "will be cooperating within the WTO.”