Public and Private sectors join forces toward WTO accession for Comoros
In collaboration with the WTO, the Comorian Ministry of Finance, Economy, Budget, Investment and Foreign Trade, and the Enhanced Integrated framework, ITC organised a workshop on the implications of the Comoros’ WTO accession in Moroni, the island nation’s capital, on 14-15 October 14-15. The meeting received financial backing from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development.
The Comorian government is preparing to accelerate its bid for WTO membership, after starting accession talks in 2007. It is seeking to encourage private sector participation in this process, which ITC is supporting through the organisation of public-private dialogues.
The two-day ITC-WTO workshop looked at the business implications of WTO accession with a focus on the services sector. It also highlighted the benefits of ensuring an effective and ongoing public-private dialogue throughout the negotiation process.
The Deputy Minister of Trade, Mr. Said Ben Ousseni, opened the workshop by emphasising that the challenges associated with the WTO accession process could best be overcome by ensuring effective collaboration between the public and the private sectors. The goal is “to build national consensus on WTO accession between the different stakeholders”.
Mr. Saïd Ali Said Athoumane, Secretary General of the chamber of commerce, echoed this sentiment, highlighting the importance of dialogue and an “inclusive approach” towards all stakeholders in the process”. The workshop was an important step in the accession process as it provided for “an opportunity for the private sector to familiarise itself to the multilateral trading system and the business applications of WTO accession”, he added.
With participants from the islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Mohéli, the workshop served as a platform to discuss the Comorian tourism and transport sectors as well as their understanding of WTO rules, commitments, and participation in the negotiation process.
As an island nation in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and the African continent, a well-functioning tourism sector and efficient transport infrastructure are clear goals for the Comoros. A presentation by Mme Hissani Guy, President of the National Tourism office explored the development of the Comorian tourism industry and the steps ahead. To add to the discussion, Mr. Ramsamy, an ITC international consultant, shared the experiences of Mauritius, a fellow island nation, with regard to WTO commitments and the in development of its tourism sector. Mr. Dale Honeck, a services expert from the WTO, made presentations underlining the advantages of a competitive services sector and discussing the experiences of other developing country WTO members with the General Agreement on trade in services (GATS) and WTO accession. Mr. Honeck also stressed the importance of the transport and tourism sectors.
The workshop saw an active and open discussion on the WTO accession process, the potential gains and challenges associated with liberalisation, and the need for policy coordination across different sectors of the Comorian economy. The participants agreed that the workshop had increased their knowledge about the multilateral trading system, and highlighted the importance of continued public-private dialogue.
“The workshop will help the private sector organise for and anticipate the accession process and thus benefit from WTO membership” a private sector participant stated at the end of the 2-day event.
In his closing remarks, Deputy Minister of Trade, Mr. Said Ben Ousseni voiced agreement about the central role of the private sector in the accession process, and affirmed that his government was “looking forward to the assistance and expertise of ITC in order to put in place an effective public-private dialogue to support the WTO accession of Comoros”.
ITC will continue to support the Comoros’ WTO accession process, with the financial support of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international Development. The next public-private dialogue is scheduled for early 2015.