Opening Remarks of the U.S. Delegation to the First Working Party on the Accession of Liberia to the WTO
Geneva, July 11, 2012We warmly welcome Deputy Minister Aletha Browne-Cooper and the rest of the delegation from Liberia to Geneva for the first meeting of its WTO accession Working Party. We applaud Liberia’s decision to join the WTO, and we pledge our continued support throughout these negotiations.
We are very appreciative of the solid factual base that has been provided for our work in the Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime and the responses to WTO Members’ written questions. We thank Liberia for the significant amount of time that your government has invested in this. We also appreciate Liberia’s efforts to supply a number of relevant documents for review. We will continue to review them as the process moves forward.
Liberia’s diligence and responsiveness is evident in the documents it has provided to the Secretariat and Working Party. It is clear that without Liberia’s commitment to this project at all levels, the very useful basis for our work today would not have been possible.
We also wish to thank the WTO Secretariat for its able efforts on documentation and planning for this meeting and for the accession in general.
We are very cognizant of the fact that Liberia is a least-developed country (LDC) and that this accession negotiation is subject to the General Council’s 2002 Accession Guidelines for LDCs. In this connection, we look forward to the General Council taking action at its meeting later this month on recommendations that have been put forward by the Sub-Committee on LDCs to streamline and further operationalize those Guidelines as this will benefit Liberia and other LDCs in the process of accession.
WTO accession is difficult for all applicants, but more so for governments of LDCs which have so many other calls on their resources. We realize that this is even more complicated for countries in the process of recovery from war and economic devastation. Liberia has made difficult decisions in terms of resource allocation to get to this point in the negotiations and will have to continue to make those decisions.
We believe that Liberia will benefit from the WTO accession process, and from the full implementation of WTO provisions and market access commitments that will create a good economic climate for investment, growth, and development.
Fundamentally, a commitment to WTO Membership is the same thing as a commitment to ongoing reform in the economy and trade regime, and we commend Liberia for its decision in this direction. The incorporation of the WTO agreements in Liberia’s law and regulations will establish a proven framework for utilizing trade for economic development, and the basic transparency and due-process elements in these agreements, once established in Liberian law, will help strengthen other reforms
In practical terms, the adoption of WTO-consistent procedures in the trade area will provide a stable regulatory environment for trade, help reduce business costs, stimulate commerce, generally enhance the environment for private sector investment, both foreign and domestic, and improve access to information technology. The liberalization of goods market access both through the elimination of nontariff barriers and reduction in tariffs will create new economic opportunities in Liberia. Establishing a comprehensive services schedule creates a virtual “open for business” sign for all potential investors
In our review of the existing documents, we have noted a number of areas where we will need to seek clarification to better understand the measures in place and the reasons for their application. In our comments, we will also note areas where we believe additional measures and laws to implement WTO provisions may be necessary. We are pleased to note that Liberia has already begun its own review and, in some cases, revision, of its laws and practices to meet WTO requirements
Mr. Chairman, I reiterate that we strongly support Liberia’s accession to the WTO. We are linked to Liberia by history, and by our strong support for its aspiration to overcome recent hard times. We have been deeply involved in the accession to date through technical assistance and we will continue. I pledge my delegation’s maximum efforts to work with Liberia and other delegations in support of these negotiations, and we look forward to moving forward from the good beginning that Liberia has provided to this endeavor.
We will meet with Liberia tomorrow, for discussions on how we might organize market access negotiations, and how the government’s commitments on goods and services can support Liberia’s broader economic development efforts. We appreciate that Liberia’s commitments must take its unique economic situation into consideration. We also appreciate that a strategic approach to these negotiations can produce lasting economic benefits for Liberia. •
We look forward to a good discussion here, and in our bilateral meeting tomorrow.
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