A New Trade Horizon for Afghanistan.

“We view adherence to WTO agreements as critical for strengthening the rule of law, increasing transparency, and building the foundation for sound economic development in Afghanistan.”

Humayoon Rasaw, head of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries

Chemonics and USAID also supported the working party meetings, the first of which was in Geneva in January 2011. Through five meetings, Afghanistan presented its Memorandum of Foreign Trade Regime, held multilateral negotiations on rules and market access, discussed agricultural support and export subsidies, and finalized its terms of accession.

Following the end of TAFA II in November 2013, the USAID Afghanistan Trade and Revenue (ATAR) project, also implemented by Chemonics, has continued to support trade policy with an even more explicit goal of WTO accession. ATAR activities have built on previous projects’ efforts, collaborating with the Ministry of Commerce and Industries to support new trade legislation that conforms to WTO rules at every level of review and approval. Since 2009, these programs have assisted Afghanistan with developing more than 30 trade reforms covering trade policy, intellectual property, customs, and food safety.

Most recently, from August to September 2015, ATAR staff assisted the Ministry of Commerce and Industries and other ministries to prepare responses to 90 questions from the WTO to fine-tune the Draft Working Party Report, the last step in the long process. Answering these last questions set the stage for the voting in December at MC10 in Nairobi.

Beyond these formal changes, the ATAR project has developed materials and presentations to educate media officials, government figures, and the private sector on the benefits and challenges of accession. These seminars and workshops will continue after accession is complete as part of a bigger public outreach campaign to build awareness.

There is still much to do, but the Afghan business community and government alike can take comfort in the fact that this accession should usher in a new era of international trade for the country.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani affirms that WTO accession “will serve as a catalyst for domestic reforms and transformation to an effective and functioning market economy that attracts investment, creates jobs and improves the welfare of the people of Afghanistan.”

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo’s speech at MC10 reflected this optimism. “Afghanistan’s WTO accession is a clear sign for all of the world to see that the country is building a business-friendly environment,” he said. “I am confident that the WTO membership will contribute to establishing a firm foundation for Afghanistan’s future development and prosperity.”