Accession to the World Trade Organization
(WTO): Options for Syria”: this is the
topic of the seminar
delivered on 20 October 2004 at the National Agricultural Policy Center
(NAPC) by Dr Don Mc Clatchy, international expert from New Zealand,
recruited under the Italian funded Project GCP/SYR/006/ITA executed by
the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The
audience, composed of national and international attendants and
including representatives of the MAAR and other Syrian Ministries and
institutions as well as representatives of the Italian embassy, ICARDA,
FAO and other stakeholders, actively participated in the forum by asking
questions and offering cues for debate.
The seminar covered the possible options concerning agriculture-related
negotiations for WTO accession, as well as the required adjustments that
might be required for domestic policies.
According to the expert, Syria will not have to make major changes to
its existing agro-food policies, programs, and institutions as result of
a potential accession to the Organization but rather to adjust some of
them. It appears that the agricultural policy changes to be made in
order to comply with WTO regulations will be few and limited to specific
areas. Furthermore, the changes required are generally in line with the
direction of Syria’s steady economic reform program towards a more
trade-oriented, open economy, which has been in place now for many
years. He made a distinction between the minimal policy changes that
will be necessary, in order to satisfy WTO member countries, and further
optional but desirable steps which Syria should take, in order to fully
exploit the benefits generated by WTO membership.
Dr McClatchy argued that preparatory efforts now - to anticipate the
demands that will be placed on Syria in the accession negotiations, to
consider possible responses to those demands, and to identify preferred
options for policy adjustments to accommodate those demands, where
necessary - will strengthen the hand of Syria’s negotiators later.
Supported by five NAPC technical staff members, he is currently
gathering and preparing further relevant information in order to assist
the country in following up its request of accession to the WTO.
During the debate H.E. M.Taher, FAO Representative in Syria, confirmed
the willingness of the Organization to provide all the support needed to
contribute to the Syrian accession to the WTO. The Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations - he stated - is already assisting
Syria through the current FAO Project GCP/SYR/006/ITA that recruited Dr
Mc Clatchy and organized the forum in order to inform all stakeholders
on options to enhance Syria’s negotiating capacity. Another initiative
promoted by FAO was the organization of a Regional Workshop on Syrian
accession to the WTO that was held in Damascus from 28 November to 2
December 2004: on this occasion representatives of all the Near East
region exchanged views benefiting from the experience of those countries
which are currently WTO members.
Dr Mc Clatchy agreed with a suggestion from the audience that the
recently completed EU-Association Agreement provides a useful precedent
and should facilitate the WTO accession negotiations.