Mr Jamshid Khodjayev, Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan and Chair of the Inter-Agency Commission on WTO Accession, led a delegation of nearly 50 officials to Geneva. This included Chief Negotiator Mr Azizbek Urunov, Deputy Minister of Economy and Finance Mr Ahadbek Haydarov, Deputy Minister of Justice Mr Alisher Karimov and Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank Mr Bobir Abubakirov. Many officials from a range of ministries and agencies also joined the meeting virtually from Tashkent.
“The presence of this large, high-level delegation reflects Uzbekistan’s unwavering and serious commitment to WTO accession. My special welcome goes to Mr Azizbek Urunov, who was appointed in June as Special Representative of the President on WTO issues and new Chief Negotiator for WTO accession,” said the Chair of the Working Party, Ambassador Yun Seong-deok of the Republic of Korea.
“With today’s meeting, what is clear is that the interval between Working Party cycles has become much shorter, indicating that the negotiations are intensifying with more frequent interactions between Uzbekistan and WTO members, both on the market access and rules tracks,” noted the Working Party Chair.
Ambassador Yun stressed that since March, Uzbekistan has sustained its technical engagement, both on the bilateral and the multilateral fronts. Between June and October, it submitted a number of updated documents for the seventh Working Party meeting and introduced a number of critical policy and institutional measures aimed at accelerating the accession negotiations.
In addition, several representatives of the WTO Secretariat visited Tashkent in September and October to work with the Chief Negotiator and his inter-agency negotiating team to prepare for this meeting.
In his statement, Mr Khodjayev underlined several institutional changes that Uzbekistan has undertaken to advance the negotiations, including the establishment of a special department in the Ministry of Justice for ensuring compliance with WTO rules and the creation of WTO divisions in 20 ministries and agencies.
Mr Khodjaev reassured WTO members that Uzbekistan has formed a solid negotiating team. “We are back in Geneva with a refreshed spirit. The negotiating team is young and ambitious, deeply committed and ready to contribute with technical substance and constructiveness,” he added. Read his full statement here.
In remarks to the Working Party, WTO Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang welcomed the institutional changes to the negotiating team, the domestic coordination and additional negotiating inputs tabled by Tashkent. In particular, he commended the institutionalization of the legislative review mechanism to ensure consistency with WTO rules. This is “hugely significant and will have long-lasting systemic impact” for the development of the country’s legal system, he said.
“I trust that these efforts very much reflect President (Shavkat) Mirziyoyev’s vision that the accession process needs to deliver tangible results and register milestones this year. As you are aware, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been following this accession with active interest, constantly asking about the progress in the negotiations,” he said.
In September, DG Okonjo-Iweala met President Mirziyoyev and reiterated the support of the Secretariat, including in the development of a technical assistance (TA) roadmap. The accession team visited Tashkent in October and worked with the negotiating team on the roadmap. This will serve as a basis for targeted and efficient TA delivery by all partners, coordinated by the Secretariat.
Uzbekistan reported on the signing of bilateral agreements with five members since the last Working Party meeting, including Georgia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Türkiye and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It also actively engaged with 31 members on bilateral market access negotiations.
The Working Party continued the examination of the foreign trade regime of Uzbekistan, based on the Secretariat’s second revision of the Factual Summary of Points Raised and other supporting documentation, which included updated Agriculture Supporting Tables for 2020-2022. Ahead of the meeting, Uzbekistan also submitted Action Plans on Trade Facilitation, measures on technical barriers to trade (TBT), sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues and intellectual property as well as a list of additional draft commitment paragraphs.
On legislation, Uzbekistan presented the latest legislative developments on the basis of an updated Legislative Action Plan, as a follow-up to its earlier revision submitted in July. It highlighted steady progress towards the implementation of WTO-compliant legislation in the areas of customs fees, TBT, SPS, trade facilitation, transit, intellectual property, import licensing and other areas. In the lead-up to the meeting, Tashkent also circulated a consultation document with information on the process of adoption of legislation and the hierarchy of legal instruments, itemising 23 pieces of legislation, including 14 drafts, in addition to 16 pieces of legislation submitted in July.
The Chair noted that Uzbekistan has significantly stepped up its efforts to harmonize its national legislation with WTO rules, including through the establishment of a new Department for Harmonization of National Legislation with WTO Agreements under the Ministry of Justice.
On the bilateral front, Uzbekistan was requested to share its revised market access offers on goods and services with interested members. Uzbekistan and WTO members were also encouraged to step up their engagement to conclude the negotiations.
On the multilateral front, members were invited to submit questions, comments and proposals for draft commitments by 14 December. Uzbekistan was requested to provide its replies to members’ questions, which would be the basis for the Secretariat to update the multilateral document for the next meeting, along with other documents requested, such as a revised state trading questionnaire, a revised draft subsidies notification and additional information on export competition.
On legislation, Tashkent was invited to revise its Legislative Action Plan and provide copies of enacted and draft trade-related legislation. A specific date for the next Working Party meeting will be announced once all the required negotiating inputs are in place.