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Myths about WTO membership

One can often come across some negative comments about the WTO, which generally stem from the lack of information about the principles of the WTO and the conditions of membership in the Organization.

After joining the WTO, import to Belarus will rapidly increase

This is not true.

In the process of its accession to the WTO, Belarus aims at maintaining the current level of tariff protection of the EAEU CET.

Also, after the recent accessions to the WTO of some EAEU Members, the volume of imports into these countries has mainly declined. The changes generally affected the structure of the imports and led to diversification of trading flows.

Joining the WTO means complete liberalization of market access and free trade at all costs

This is not true.

Despite the fact that free trade is one of the main goals of the WTO, the principles of fairness, non-discrimination and transparency are also important.

WTO Members retain the ability to apply permitted regulatory mechanisms (sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical regulation, safeguard measures and others). There is also the right to temporarily introduce restrictions on international trade, for example, in cases of a serious damage to national producers due to imports or the balance of payments problems. Special provisions are also provided for developing countries. However, all trade restrictions are introduced on the basis of clearly defined WTO rules.

WTO dictates state policy to its Members

This is not true.

The WTO does not tell governments how to conduct their trade policies because the organization is driven by its Members. WTO agreements are adopted by consensus as a result of negotiations between Members and then ratified by Parliaments.

The enforcement mechanism can only be agreed if a WTO Member violates its commitments. Disagreements are resolved within the framework of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), which includes all Members of the organization. The decisions of the DSB are limited to the determination of whether a Member has violated any WTO agreement.

If a Member who violates its commitments does not intend to rectify the situation, this Member may face retaliatory sanctions from the affected WTO Members that are authorized by the DSB.

The WTO Secretariat determines the directions of the organization development

This is not true.

The WTO is an organization directly managed by its Members. The WTO Secretariat supports the activities of the organization and, unlike the UN Secretariat, performs primarily technical functions.

The directions of further WTO development are determined by its Members.

Small countries in the WTO are powerless

This is not true.

In the WTO trading system, everyone is required to adhere to the same rules, which expands the negotiations opportunities for small countries. Within the dispute settlement procedure small countries have successfully challenged the measures introduced by the largest WTO Members. Outside this system, small countries would have no impact on more powerful trading partners.

Both small and large countries must make concessions during the negotiations. Thus, the Uruguay Round of negotiations (1986-1994) became possible only due to the concession of large industrial countries to carry out reforms in the fields of trade in textiles and agriculture. Both of these industries were vital to developing countries.

Other dispelled myths about the WTO can be found here.

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