Member states of the World Trade Organization
The original member states of the World Trade Organization are the parties to the GATT after ratifying the Uruguay Round Agreements, 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. 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.
As is typical of WTO procedures, an offer of accession is only given once consensus is reached among interested parties. 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, Vanuatu, lasting 17 years and 1 month, and China, lasting 15 years and 5 months.
As of 2007, WTO member states represented 96.4% of global trade and 96.7% of global GDP. Iran, followed by Algeria, are the economies with the largest GDP and trade outside the WTO, using 2005 data.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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. The documents used in the accession process which are embargoed during the accession process are released once the nation becomes a member.
Members and observers
The WTO currently has 161 members. 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. 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. Four other states, China, Lebanon, Liberia, Syria, were parties to GATT but subsequently withdrew from the treaty prior to the establishment of the WTO. 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)" so that they were not rejected as a result of the People's Republic of China One-China policy.
The WTO has 23 observer states, 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. The Palestinian Authority submitted a request for WTO observer status in October 2009 and again in April 2010.
Seychelles is the newest member, joining on 26 April 2015. Negotiations between Kazakhstan and the WTO, which had been ongoing since 1996, were finalized on 27 July 2015 and its bid for membership approved. Provided it ratifies its accession treaty by 31 October 2015, Kazakhstan will become a member of the WTO.
Russia was the only large economy outside of the WTO after Saudi Arabia joined in 2005. 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, leading to Russian membership in 2012.
List of members and accession dates
The following table lists all current members and their accession date.
|Country||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 ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|Bahrain||1 January 1995|
|Bangladesh||1 January 1995|
|Barbados||1 January 1995|
|Belgium ( EU)||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 ( EU)||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 ( EU)||30 November 2000|
|Cuba||20 April 1995|
|Cyprus ( EU)||30 July 1995|
|Czech Republic ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|Denmark ( EU)||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 ( EU)||13 November 1999|
|European Union[note 1]||1 January 1995|
|Fiji||14 January 1996|
|Finland ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|France ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|Gabon||1 January 1995|
|Gambia||23 October 1996|
|Georgia||14 June 2000|
|Germany ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|Ghana||1 January 1995|
|Greece ( EU)||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[note 2]||1 January 1995|
|Hungary ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|Iceland||1 January 1995|
|India||1 January 1995|
|Indonesia||1 January 1995|
|Ireland ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|Israel||21 April 1995|
|Italy ( EU)||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 ( EU)||10 February 1999|
|Lesotho||31 May 1995|
|Liechtenstein||1 September 1995|
|Lithuania ( EU)||31 May 2001|
|Luxembourg ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|Macau, China[note 3]||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 ( EU)||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|
|Morocco||1 January 1995|
|Mozambique||26 August 1995|
|Myanmar||1 January 1995|
|Namibia||1 January 1995|
|Nepal||23 April 2004|
|Netherlands ( EU)||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 ( EU)||1 July 1995|
|Portugal ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|Qatar||13 January 1996|
|Romania ( EU)||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|
|Saudi Arabia||11 December 2005|
|Senegal||1 January 1995|
|Seychelles||26 April 2015|
|Sierra Leone||23 July 1995|
|Singapore||1 January 1995|
|Slovakia ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|Slovenia ( EU)||30 July 1995|
|Solomon Islands||26 July 1996|
|South Africa||1 January 1995|
|Spain ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|Sri Lanka||1 January 1995|
|Suriname||1 January 1995|
|Swaziland||1 January 1995|
|Sweden ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|Switzerland||1 July 1995|
|Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu||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 ( EU)||1 January 1995|
|United States||1 January 1995|
|Uruguay||1 January 1995|
|Vanuatu||24 August 2012|
|Venezuela||1 January 1995|
|Vietnam||11 January 2007|
|Yemen||26 June 2014|
|Zambia||1 January 1995|
|Zimbabwe||5 March 1995|
List of observers
The following table lists all 23 current observers. Within five years of being granted observer status by the WTO, states are required to begin negotiating their accession to the organization.
|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)|
|Iran||19 July 1996|
|Iraq||30 September 2004|
|Kazakhstan[c]||29 January 1996|
|Lebanon[d]||30 January 1999|
|Liberia[d]||13 June 2007|
|Libya||10 June 2004|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||14 January 2005|
|Serbia[a]||23 December 2004|
|Sudan||11 October 1994|
|Syria[d]||10 October 2001|
|Uzbekistan||8 December 1994|
Neither members nor observers
- Submitted an application for membership on 13 April 2015.
- Legal texts: the WTO agreements at World Trade Organization
- Membership, Alliances and Bureaucracy, World Trade Organization
- Accessions Summary, Center for International Development
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- International Intergovernmental Organizations Granted Observer Status to WTO Bodies, World Trade Organization
- "Palestine - Request for Observer Status". Taiwan WTO Center. 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2012-11-03.
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- "WTO formally accepts Kazakhstan as new member". AFP. 27 July 2015.
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- "WTO Accession Newsletter" (PDF). World Trade Organization. 2015-06-25. Retrieved 2015-07-11.
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