WTO Accession from the Perspective of WTO Members: The View from the Other Side of the Table

21 Pages Posted: 20 May 2008 Last revised: 30 Dec 2008

See all articles by Simon Lacey

Simon Lacey

Institute for International Trade; UNSW Faculty of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2006


This paper has been prepared for the Islamic Development Bank's Seminar on WTO Accession Issues for selected OIC Member Countries, taking place on 28 -29 March 2006, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It offers a detour from the well-trodden ground of WTO accession procedures and the challenges acceding countries face throughout their accession negotiations, and instead focuses on the WTO accession process from the point of view of those on the other side of the table, namely WTO Members. This paper offers a welcome opportunity to view the WTO accession process from this perspective and attempts to give "the other side of the story".

WTO accession as an issue has traditionally and indeed still continues to take a back seat to other fields of activity within the WTO, which tend to attract more attention from Members as well as grabbing more headlines in the media.1 These include WTO dispute settlement, as well as the on-going multilateral trade negotiations within the struggling Doha Round. It is perhaps for this reason that WTO accession as an issue tends to attract only a handful of Members who take a consistent and systemic interest in the topic.

This paper is divided into two sections. Section One discusses the different kinds of issues which Members pursue during the negotiations of acceding countries and makes an intellectual distinction between: 1) market access issues; 2) systemic issues, and; 3) non trade-related issues. Section Two looks at some of the issues which come up in particular, under two different sectors, namely trade in agriculture and trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights.

What is interesting is that different Members seem to have their own different "pet" issues on which they will invariably take a firm and committed stance. Also interesting is the fact that when two neighboring countries are negotiating with one another, one as a Member and the other as an applicant, the Member can sometimes be relied upon to make a whole series of bilateral trade issues part of the multilateral accession process, thereby capitalizing on its brief negotiating leverage. Finally, there seems to be a consensus that once bilateral deals have been completed with the few major players, accession negotiations tend to become a matter of dotting the "i"s and crossing the "t"s, although, again, this strategy can also come unraveled in the face of a recalcitrant Member who has chosen to take a tough and committed stance on a particular issue.

Keywords: WTO accession, international trade policy, WTO Members, WTO law, international negotiations

JEL Classification: F13, K33

Suggested Citation

Lacey, Simon B.C., WTO Accession from the Perspective of WTO Members: The View from the Other Side of the Table (March 1, 2006). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1135117 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1135117

Simon B.C. Lacey (Contact Author)

Institute for International Trade ( email )

No 233 North Terrace, School of Commerce
Adelaide, South Australia 5005

UNSW Faculty of Law ( email )

Kensington, New South Wales 2052

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