Uzbekistan determined to meet tight deadlines for reform on path to WTO membership says deputy PM

By Muzaffar Ismailov in Tashkent May 17, 2023

Uzbekistan’s deputy prime minister for investment and foreign economic relations, Jamshid Khodjayev, has outlined remaining steps Tashkent needs to take on the path to joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), but said the country was determined to meet a series of tight deadlines.

Speaking on the sidelines of the EBRD annual forum in Samarkand on May 17, he said: "Joining the WTO is a very long and complicated process. Firstly, we need to continue reforming legislation that synchronises our trade policy, technical norms and international standards for goods and services."

"Access to the [wider world] market means competition, but it will also entail good value for money. We understand that the market will play its role, and we will be ready to accept the challenge," Khodjayev added.

Referring to the increased competition that WTO membership brings, the deputy PM said: "As you know, over the past five to six years we have been opening up new industries, modernising existing ones and expanding the capabilities of domestic manufacturers, businesses and companies."

One challenge on the way to WTO membership was transforming state-owned enterprises, said Khodjayev. “We have started working in this direction, we are privatising banks and large companies. State-owned enterprises will also get access to the market, they will have to compete and be competitive. They should be transformed reasonably according to the new realities," he added.

Khodjayev also drew attention to how the many sectors, such as agriculture, that receive state subsidies will have to revise their development models.

“They need to rethink their strategy, which they are doing now. Over the past three to four years, many reforms have been made in agriculture, with the cotton sector now fully privatised and ready to compete. During negotiations with our partners, we will think about how not to harm the industry, which has just begun to grow," Khodjayev concluded.

In April, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said: "In the next three years we plan to double the export of finished products. The only way to achieve this is to become a WTO member. This will allow us to establish a fair trade system with 164 countries and gain stable markets."

Uzbekistan restarted the process of joining the WTO in 2019. In March, the sixth meeting of the working group handling the process was held in Geneva.

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