Afghanistan becomes newest World Trade Organization member

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Afghanistan has become the 164th member of the World Trade Organization, bringing to an end nearly 12 years of negotiations.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has announced that Afghanistan has become its 164th member following years of negotiations.

Afghanistan is the ninth nation to be categorised as a least-developed country to accede to the WTO since its establishment in 1995, with the process of negotiating its accession terms having taken nearly 12 years. Their membership was approved by working party members on November 11th 2015 and by ministers at the Nairobi Ministerial Conference on December 17th.

Its stated objectives as a WTO member include attracting foreign direct investment, promoting its exports and building the capacity of its officials to take part in trade negotiations, with the overall aim of helping to advance the development of a global multilateral trading system.

Additionally, the country has confirmed its acceptance of the WTO's new Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), becoming the 90th WTO member to do so. Afghanistan will benefit from special flexibilities in the TFA allowing less developed nations to determine when they will implement its individual provisions, as well as identifying any provisions for which they will require technical assistance and support for capacity building.

The TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO membership has formally accepted it, and is designed to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit.

Roberto Azevedo, director-general of the WTO, said: "This is an historic day for the country and its integration into the global economy. We arrived at this point thanks to the commitment of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the government of Afghanistan.

"I congratulate them on this achievement, particularly given the very challenging circumstances. WTO membership will be a foundation stone in the country's future development."

Currently, there are 19 other governments that are also in the process of negotiating their country's entry into the WTO.