EU-funded project “Support and Strengthening Capacity of WTO Department of Azerbaijani Ministry of Economy in WTO Accession Negotiations” holds its final conference
On 21 January 2020, final conference of the EU-funded project “Support and Strengthening Capacity of the WTO Department of the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the WTO Accession Negotiations” took place.
The project started its activities on 23 January 2018. The project partner was the Ministry of Economy. Other beneficiaries included several Ministries, Committees, and State Agencies, among others. During two years of its activity, the project assisted the Government of Azerbaijan in improvement of the trade-related legislation and its compliance with WTO rules and the best international practices, provided assistance to the negotiating team in WTO accession negotiations, contributed to strengthening the institutional capacity of the Trade Policy and WTO Department of the Ministry of Economy, in particular in preparation for the WTO accession negotiations and raised public awareness on the WTO and trade-related issues. The project was implemented by the consortium consisting of DMI Associates (France) and Ekvita (Azerbaijan).
The final conference of the project was organized by EU delegation, DMI Associates and Ekvita to present the activities implemented and the results achieved by the project. Officials of the Government of Azerbaijan, including representatives of the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representatives of the European Union Delegation to Azerbaijan, private sector and academic institutions participated in the conference.
Representatives of the consortium, Ms. Celeste Van Den Broeck, Director of DMI Associates and Mr. Ilgar Mehti, Director of Ekvita opened the conference and welcomed the guests.
Ambassador H.E. Mr. Kestutis Jankauskas, Head of the European Union Delegation to Azerbaijan, emphasized the importance of technical assistance in trade policy area to help the Government of Azerbaijan in implementation of its reform agenda and economic diversification aspirations. He expressed his satisfaction with the work of the project in filling this gap and successfully providing the necessary assistance. Mr. Jankauskas stated the importance of playing by the WTO rules in building bilateral economic relations and attracting foreign investors. He also voiced the need for more public awareness to overcome the misperceptions about the WTO and potential effects of WTO accession to Azerbaijan.
Mr. Sahib Mammadov, Deputy Minister of Economy of the Republic of Azerbaijan, praised the continous EU-Azerbaijan cooperation. He said that there was a solid legal framework for the bilateral economic relations to improve. Mr. Mammadov also referred to investment inflows from the EU and the bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and different EU member States. He gave a brief overview of the project’s work from the perspective of the Ministry of Economy and emphasized the significant work done in strengthening the capacity of the officials of the Ministry.
Ms. Maika Oshikawa, Director of Accessions Division of the WTO confirmed that the economic and institutional reforms are seen as a major benefit by the countries seeking accession to the WTO. She noted that WTO accession can act as an effective external anchor in locking in the reforms undertaken. She drew parallels between 36 acceded countries and Azerbaijan and highlighted the similarities with some of these countries in being resource-based economies and previously economies in transition. Ms. Oshikawa referred to studies showing faster economic growth and improved position in ease of doing business rankings of the countries after their accession to the WTO as well as the long-term welfare and GDP gains from the WTO membership. She gave an overview of Azerbaijan’s accession process to date, informed on possible next steps and expressed her belief that 2020 can be a good opportunity for Azerbaijan to enter the final phase of its WTO accession process.
Mr. Marius Bordalba, Team Leader of the project during the first year of its implementation, informed the participants about the commencement of the project and high expectations from all sides. He praised the cooperativeness of the Beneficiary and lines agencies and noted that the project’s approach from the start was creativity and sustainable engagement with all relevant stakeholders. He described in detail the project’s objectives, main directions of activities and the assistance provided during the first year. He referred to the advice provided in different areas of trade regulation, including trade remedies, agriculture, intellectual property based on the WTO requirements and best regulatory practices. He highlighted the importance of daily assistance to the Ministry of Economy and project’s help in the implementation of Strategic Roadmaps upon additional requests. He also touched upon WTO accession-specific activities, including the assistance on preparation of replies to WTO Members questions and other accession documents.
Ms. Alicia Greenidge, Team Leader of the project since May 2019 and senior international trade advisor, stated that the project’s activities also aimed at improving bilateral trade relationships of Azerbaijan, increasing the competitiveness and easing Azerbaijan’s integration to global markets. She noted that different activities such as roundtables, that were designed on key issues that may affect Azerbaijan now and in the future as a WTO Member, and academic events provided a forum for different constituents, including various State agencies, private sector representatives and academia to engage with each other. She emphasized the significance of the awareness-raising activities and materials prepared by the project in better informing the public and overcoming misperceptions about the WTO. Ms. Greenidge believed that the technical assistance provided by the project will make Azerbaijan more equipped with understanding the flexibilities existing in the WTO and enormously help in the accession negotiations.
The conference continued with a panel of project’s experts presenting the relevant activities and results thereof.
Mr. Ilkin Aliyev, key expert of the project, presented the updated www.wto.az web portal, went through the structure and different sections of the portal and emphasized its significance in terms of public awareness-raising on the WTO. The portal contains relevant trade-related laws and regulations, translations of the WTO Agreements into Azerbaijani language, information about the WTO, Azerbaijan’s WTO accession process and the latest news thereon.
Mr. Marius Bordalba, in his role as a senior expert on trade remedies, reported on the activities done in the areas of trade remedies, including the review of Azerbaijan’s trade remedies legislation, recommendations provided to the relevant State bodies, preparation of manuals, brochures and leaflets on the use of trade remedies in Azerbaijan.
Mr. Laurent Manderieux, senior international expert on intellectual property rights, informed the participants about the project’s contributions to amendments to intellectual property legislation in Azerbaijan, especially on protection of medical test data as well as the activities to raise awareness on border protection of IP rights and Geographical Indications based on the best practices.
Ms Aray Kassabekova, senior expert on trade in goods and former negotiator on Kazakshtan’s accession to the WTO, shared Kazakhstan’s experience on excise taxes and negotiations on agricultural subsidies.
Ms. Alicia Greenidge, in her role as a senior international expert on trade in services, presented the activities implemented in different service sectors, especially postal services and financial services and touched upon the main issues discussed with the relevant government agencies, including recent regional developments in banking and financial services.
More information about the activities of the project as well as all relevant information and documents concerning Azerbaijan’s WTO accession process can be accessed at www.wto.az web portal.