Lukashenka orders WTO entry talks stepped up

Alyaksandr Lukashenka directed on Tuesday that the government step up talks on Belarus' accession to the WTO, Prime Minister Andrey Kabyakow told reporters after a government conference chaired by the head of state.

 
Alyaksandr Lukashenka directed on Tuesday that the government step up talks on Belarus' accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Prime Minister Andrey Kabyakow told reporters after a government conference chaired by the head of state.

 

Mr. Lukashenka concluded at the conference that Belarus should join the global trade body, said the prime minister.

Minsk expects WTO member states to finalize soon their proposals for the terms on which they want Belarus to join the organization, and a schedule of accession negotiations will be drawn up afterward, said Mr. Kabyakow.

Speaking at the conference, Mr. Lukashenka again questioned the need for Belarus to join the WTO. «The main question is whether we need that under current conditions,» the government's news agency BelTA quoted him as saying.

«They said not long ago, yesterday that they would not like to see us there. Now they are nudging us actively toward that. Who? What, do we have well-wishers in the world? No. There is strong competition in economy. And whenever our rivals nudge us toward some things I seriously wonder why they do so.»

There are only two large trade groupings in the world, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and some experts believe that the WTO «has de facto run its course,» said Mr. Lukashenka.

At the same time, he said, Minsk has to take into account the fact that both Russia and Kazakhstan, with which Belarus shares an economic bloc, are WTO members, according to Mr. Lukashenka.

«Yet we have a certain degree of freedom not bound by the WTO rules. So do we need this degree of freedom or not? Will we get greater benefits from admission to the WTO or will it yield no results but leave us bound by certain obligations?» he wondered.

Belarus has held WTO entry talks since 1993. Speaking in October 2012, Mr. Lukashenka accused the European Union and the United States of blocking Belarus' accession to the organization.

«We were told that this is a purely trade, economic organization. That is not the case. It is politics that prevails there. And it is the EU and the United States that have built the fence in front of us for the reasons you know. They say that we have no human rights respect, that we are the last dictatorship stronghold and so on,» Mr. Lukashenka said.

However, he said that there was no longer an urgent need for Belarus to join the global trading body following Russia's WTO entry.

«We will de facto work in the framework of the World Trade Organization, particularly considering that Russia is our main partner,» he said. «That's why it's even better that we will gradually get used to these WTO rules.»

In September 2015, Belarus and the WTO Secretariat approved a roadmap for further accession talks.

Speaking later that month, Mr. Lukashenka warned that Belarus was in no rush to join the WTO as it was still unsure over whether it would benefit from membership of the organization.