Member states of the World Trade Organization

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The original member states of the World Trade Organization are the parties to the GATT after ratifying the Uruguay Round Agreements,[1] and the European Communities. They obtained this status at the entry into force on 1 January 1995 or upon their date of ratification. All other members have joined the organization as a result of negotiation, and membership consists of a balance of rights and obligations.[2] The process of becoming a World Trade Organization (WTO) member is unique to each applicant country, and the terms of accession are dependent upon the country's stage of economic development and the current trade regime.[3]

As is typical of WTO procedures, an offer of accession is only given once consensus is reached among interested parties.[4] The process takes about five years, on average, but it can take some countries almost a decade if the country is less than fully committed to the process, or if political issues interfere. The shortest accession negotiation was that of Kyrgyzstan, lasting 2 years and 10 months. The longest were that of Russia, lasting 19 years and 2 months,[5] Vanuatu, lasting 17 years and 1 month,[6] and China, lasting 15 years and 5 months.[7]

As of 2007, WTO member states represented 96.4% of global trade and 96.7% of global GDP.[8] Iran, followed by Algeria, are the economies with the largest GDP and trade outside the WTO, using 2005 data.[9][10]

Accession process[edit]

WTO accession progress:
  members (including dual-representation with the European Union)
  Draft Working Party Report or Factual Summary adopted
  Goods and/or Services offers submitted
  Memorandum on Foreign Trade Regime submitted
  observer, negotiations to start later or no Memorandum on FTR submitted
  frozen procedures or no negotiations in the last 3 years
  no official interaction with the WTO

The process of accession can be broken down into four major stages: a country wishing to accede to the WTO submits an application to the General Council. The government applying for membership has to describe all aspects of its trade and economic policies that have a bearing on WTO agreements.[2] The application is submitted to the WTO in a memorandum which is examined by a working party open to all interested WTO Members, and dealing with the country's application. For large countries such as Russia, numerous countries participate in this process. For smaller countries, the Quadrilateral group of countries – consisting of the EU, the United States, Canada and Japan – and an applicant's neighboring countries are typically most involved.[4] The applicant then presents a detailed memorandum to the Working Party on its foreign trade regime, describing, among other things, its economy, economic policies, domestic and international trade regulations, and intellectual property policies. The Working Party Members submit written questions to the applicant to clarify aspects of its foreign trade regime with particular attention being paid to the degree of privatization in the economy and the extent to which government regulation is transparent.[4] After all necessary background information has been acquired, the Working Party will begin meeting to focus on issues of discrepancy between the WTO rules and the Applicant's international and domestic trade policies and laws. The WP determines the terms and conditions of entry into the WTO for the applicant nation, and may consider transitional periods to allow countries some leeway in complying with the WTO rules.[3]

The final phase of accession involves bilateral negotiations between the applicant nation and other Working Party members regarding the concessions and commitments on tariff levels and market access for goods and services. These talks cover tariff rates and specific market access commitments, and other policies in goods and services. The new member's commitments are to apply equally to all WTO members under normal non-discrimination rules, even though they are negotiated bilaterally. In other words, the talks determine the benefits (in the form of export opportunities and guarantees) other WTO members can expect when the new member joins. The talks can be highly complicated; it has been said that in some cases the negotiations are almost as large as an entire round of multilateral trade negotiations.[2]

When the bilateral talks conclude, the working party finalizes the terms of accession. sends an accession package, which includes a summary of all the WP meetings, the Protocol of Accession (a draft membership treaty), and lists ("schedules") of the member-to-be's commitments to the General Council or Ministerial Conference. Once the General Council or Ministerial Conference approves of the terms of accession, the applicant's parliament must ratify the Protocol of Accession before it can become a member.[11] The documents used in the accession process which are embargoed during the accession process are released once the nation becomes a member.[3]

Members and observers[edit]

A world map of WTO participation:
  Members, dually represented with the European Union

The WTO currently has 160 members.[12] Of the 128 states party to the GATT at the end of 1994, all have since become WTO members except for the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which was suspended from participating in GATT at the time.[13][14] The SFRY had dissolved in 1992, and its largest successor state the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (which itself later dissolved into two separate states: Serbia and Montenegro) aspired to be recognized as the SFRY's continuator state, but the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution rejecting this claim. As of 2014, four of the successor states of the SFRY are WTO members (Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro), and the remaining two (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia) are observers negotiating membership.[12] Four other states, China, Lebanon, Liberia, Syria, were parties to GATT but subsequently withdrew from the treaty prior to the establishment of the WTO.[15][13] The remaining WTO members acceded after first becoming WTO observers and negotiating membership. China has since acceded to the WTO.

The 28 states of the European Union are dually represented, as the EU is a full member of the organization. Non-sovereign autonomous entities of member states are eligible for full membership in the WTO provided that they have a separate customs territory with full autonomy in the conduct of their external commercial relations. Thus, Hong Kong became a GATT contracting party, by the now terminated "sponsorship" procedure of the United Kingdom (Hong Kong uses the name "Hong Kong, China" since 1997), as did Macau. A new member of this type is the Republic of China (Taiwan), which acceded to the WTO in 2002, and carefully crafted its application by joining under the name "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (Chinese Taipei)"[16][17] so that they were not rejected as a result of the People's Republic of China One-China policy.

The WTO has 24 observer states,[12] that with the exception of the Holy See must start their accession negotiations within five years of becoming observers. The last country admitted as observer-only before applying for full membership was Equatorial Guinea in 2002, but since 2007 it is also in full membership negotiations. In 2007 Liberia and Comoros applied directly for full membership. Some international intergovernmental organizations are also granted observer status to WTO bodies.[18] The Palestinian Authority submitted a request for WTO observer status in October 2009[19] and again in April 2010.[20]

Yemen is the newest full member, joining on 26 June 2014.[21] Russia was the only large economy outside of the WTO after China joined in 2001.[22][23] It had begun negotiating to join the WTO's predecessor in 1993. The final major point of contention – related to the 2008 Russo-Georgian War – was solved through mediation by Switzerland,[22] leading to Russian membership in 2012.

List of members and accession dates[edit]

The following table lists all current members and their accession date.[12]

Country[12][24] Date of Accession
 Albania 8 September 2000
 Angola 23 November 1996
 Antigua and Barbuda 1 January 1995
 Argentina 1 January 1995
 Armenia 5 February 2003
 Australia 1 January 1995
 Austria 1 January 1995
 Bahrain 1 January 1995
 Bangladesh 1 January 1995
 Barbados 1 January 1995
 Belgium 1 January 1995
 Belize 1 January 1995
 Benin 22 February 1996
 Bolivia 12 September 1995
 Botswana 31 May 1995
 Brazil 1 January 1995
 Brunei Darussalam 1 January 1995
 Bulgaria 1 December 1996
 Burkina Faso 3 June 1995
 Burundi 23 July 1995
 Cambodia 13 October 2004
 Cameroon 13 December 1995
 Canada 1 January 1995
 Cape Verde 23 July 2008
 Central African Republic 31 May 1995
 Chad 19 October 1996
 Chile 1 January 1995
 China 11 December 2001
 Colombia 30 April 1995
 Republic of the Congo 27 March 1997
 Democratic Republic of the Congo 1 January 1997
 Costa Rica 1 January 1995
 Côte d'Ivoire 1 January 1995
 Croatia 30 November 2000
 Cuba 20 April 1995
 Cyprus 30 July 1995
 Czech Republic 1 January 1995
 Denmark 1 January 1995
 Djibouti 31 May 1995
 Dominica 1 January 1995
 Dominican Republic 9 March 1995
 Ecuador 21 January 1996
 Egypt 30 June 1995
 El Salvador 7 May 1995
 Estonia 13 November 1999
 European Union[25] 1 January 1995
 Fiji 14 January 1996
 Finland 1 January 1995
 France 1 January 1995
 Gabon 1 January 1995
 Gambia 23 October 1996
 Georgia 14 June 2000
 Germany 1 January 1995
 Ghana 1 January 1995
 Greece 1 January 1995
 Grenada 22 February 1996
 Guatemala 21 July 1995
 Guinea 25 October 1995
 Guinea-Bissau 31 May 1995
 Guyana 1 January 1995
 Haiti 30 January 1996
 Honduras 1 January 1995
 Hong Kong, China[26] 1 January 1995
 Hungary 1 January 1995
 Iceland 1 January 1995
 India 1 January 1995
 Indonesia 1 January 1995
 Ireland 1 January 1995
 Israel 21 April 1995
 Italy 1 January 1995
 Jamaica 9 March 1995
 Japan 1 January 1995
 Jordan 11 April 2000
 Kenya 1 January 1995
 Republic of Korea 1 January 1995
 Kuwait 1 January 1995
 Kyrgyzstan 20 December 1998
 Laos 2 February 2013
 Latvia 10 February 1999
 Lesotho 31 May 1995
 Liechtenstein 1 September 1995
 Lithuania 31 May 2001
 Luxembourg 1 January 1995
 Macau, China[27] 1 January 1995
 Republic of Macedonia 4 April 2003
 Madagascar 17 November 1995
 Malawi 31 May 1995
 Malaysia 1 January 1995
 Maldives 31 May 1995
 Mali 31 May 1995
 Malta 1 January 1995
 Mauritania 31 May 1995
 Mauritius 1 January 1995
 Mexico 1 January 1995
 Moldova 26 July 2001
 Mongolia 29 January 1997
 Montenegro 29 April 2012[28]
 Morocco 1 January 1995
 Mozambique 26 August 1995
 Myanmar 1 January 1995
 Namibia 1 January 1995
   Nepal 23 April 2004
 Netherlands 1 January 1995
 New Zealand 1 January 1995
 Nicaragua 3 September 1995
 Niger 13 December 1996
 Nigeria 1 January 1995
 Norway 1 January 1995
 Oman 9 November 2000
 Pakistan 1 January 1995
 Panama 6 September 1997
 Papua New Guinea 9 June 1996
 Paraguay 1 January 1995
 Peru 1 January 1995
 Philippines 1 January 1995
 Poland 1 July 1995
 Portugal 1 January 1995
 Qatar 13 January 1996
 Romania 1 January 1995
 Russia 22 August 2012
 Rwanda 22 May 1996
 Saint Kitts and Nevis 21 February 1996
 Saint Lucia 1 January 1995
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1 January 1995
 Samoa 10 May 2012[28]
 Saudi Arabia 11 December 2005
 Senegal 1 January 1995
 Sierra Leone 23 July 1995
 Singapore 1 January 1995
 Slovakia 1 January 1995
 Slovenia 30 July 1995
 Solomon Islands 26 July 1996
 South Africa 1 January 1995
 Spain 1 January 1995
 Sri Lanka 1 January 1995
 Suriname 1 January 1995
 Swaziland 1 January 1995
 Sweden 1 January 1995
  Switzerland 1 July 1995
 Chinese Taipei 1 January 2002
 Tajikistan 2 March 2013
 Tanzania 1 January 1995
 Thailand 1 January 1995
 Togo 31 May 1995
 Tonga 27 July 2007
 Trinidad and Tobago 1 March 1995
 Tunisia 29 March 1995
 Turkey 26 March 1995
 Uganda 1 January 1995
 Ukraine 16 May 2008
 United Arab Emirates 10 April 1996
 United Kingdom 1 January 1995
 United States 1 January 1995
 Uruguay 1 January 1995
 Vanuatu 24 August 2012[6]
 Venezuela 1 January 1995
 Vietnam 11 January 2007
 Yemen 26 June 2014
 Zambia 1 January 1995
 Zimbabwe 5 March 1995

List of observers[edit]

The following table lists all current observers.[12][29] Within five years of being granted observer status by the WTO, states are required to begin negotiating their accession to the organization.[12]

Country Date of membership application
 Afghanistan 21 November 2004
 Algeria 3 June 1987
 Andorra 4 July 1997
 Azerbaijan 30 June 1997
 The Bahamas 10 May 2001
 Belarus 23 September 1993
 Bhutan 1 September 1999
 Bosnia and Herzegovina[a] 11 May 1999
 Comoros 22 February 2007
 Equatorial Guinea 19 February 2007
 Ethiopia 13 January 2003
 Holy See None[b] (Observer since 16 July 1997)[30]
 Iran 19 July 1996
 Iraq 30 September 2004
 Kazakhstan 29 January 1996
 Lebanon[c] 30 January 1999
 Liberia[c] 13 June 2007
 Libya 10 June 2004
 São Tomé and Príncipe 14 January 2005
 Serbia[a] 23 December 2004
 Seychelles 31 May 1995
 Sudan 11 October 1994
 Syria[c] 10 October 2001
 Uzbekistan 8 December 1994
  1. ^ a b Successor state to a state that was a party to GATT.[13]
  2. ^ The Holy See is exempted from having to negotiate full WTO membership.[12]
  3. ^ a b c Was a party to GATT prior to withdrawing.[15][13]

Neither members nor observers[edit]

The following table lists all the UN member states which are neither members nor observers of the WTO.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Legal texts: the WTO agreements at World Trade Organization
  2. ^ a b c Membership, Alliances and Bureaucracy, World Trade Organization
  3. ^ a b c Accessions Summary, Center for International Development
  4. ^ a b c C. Michalopoulos, WTO Accession, 64
  5. ^ Russia's entry to WTO ends 19 years of negotiations The Guardian, 22 August 2012
  6. ^ a b Vanuatu:accession status at WTO official website
  7. ^ P. Farah, "Five Years of China's WTO Membership", 263–304
  8. ^ "Accession in perspective". World Trade Organization. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  9. ^ "ANNEX 1. STATISTICAL SURVEY". World Trade Organization. 2005. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  10. ^ Arjomandy, Danial (2013-11-21). "Iranian Membership in the World Trade Organization: An Unclear Future". Iranian Studies. doi:10.1080/00210862.2013.859810. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  11. ^ How to Become a Member of the WTO, World Trade Organization
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i Members and Observers at WTO official website
  13. ^ a b c d "World Trade Report". World Trade Organization. 2007. Retrieved 2014-04-11. 
  14. ^ "The 128 countries that had signed GATT by 1994". World Trade Organization. Retrieved 2014-04-11. 
  15. ^ a b "Article XXXI - Withdrawal". World Trade Organization. Retrieved 2014-04-11. 
  16. ^ Jackson J. H., Sovereignty, p. 109
  17. ^ "Member information - Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (Chinese Taipei) and the WTO". World Trade Organization. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  18. ^ International Intergovernmental Organizations Granted Observer Status to WTO Bodies, World Trade Organization
  19. ^ "Palestine - Request for Observer Status". Taiwan WTO Center. 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  20. ^ "Palestine - Request for Observer Status". Taiwan TWO Center. 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  21. ^ "Yemen brings WTO membership to 160". World Trade Organization. 2014-06-26. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  22. ^ a b "Russia becomes WTO member after 18 years of talks". BBC. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  23. ^ Heilprin, John (17 December 2011). "Russia gets approval to join the WTO". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  24. ^ Status of WTO Legal Instruments. World Trade Organization. 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-24. 
  25. ^ All member states of the European Union are also members of the WTO individually.
  26. ^ As  Hong Kong until 1997.
  27. ^ As Flag of Macau (1976–1999) Macau until 1999.
  28. ^ a b Montenegro and Samoa strengthen the WTO WTO media release, 30 April 2012
  29. ^ "WTO Members and Accession Candidates". World Trade Organization. March 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-23. 
  30. ^ "Welcome to the Holy See Mission". Holy See Mission to the United Nations in Geneva. Retrieved 2013-04-24.