Hon’ble Lyonpo Lekey Dorji, Minister for Economic Affairs, along with officials from National Assembly of Bhutan, MFA and MoEA is attending the Eleventh World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 10-13 December 2017. Bhutan, being an observer country, was invited to attend the conference by WTO Secretariat in Geneva. The opening session of the Eleventh Ministerial Conference was attended by the President of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
The WTO consists of 164 members, including 36 LDCs. Currently 19 countries are in different stages of negotiation for accession to WTO. Afghanistan is the recently acceded member (29th July, 2016) of WTO. Out of 48 LDCs, 36 are members of WTO and the remaining 6 (Bhutan, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Sao Tome and Principe, and Sudan) are in the process of accession or in observer status. Bhutan was granted WTO Observer status in April, 1998 and application for membership was submitted in September, 1999.
On the sidelines of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, the Bhutanese delegation participated in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Trade Ministers’ Meeting and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) High-Level Dialogue: Investing in Trade in the LDCs. The LDC Trade Ministers took stock of the progress made in implementation of the 9th and 10th WTO Ministerial Decisions taken in Bali and Nairobi respectively with regard to greater market access opportunities and strengthening trade capacity for LDCs . The LDC Trade Ministers’ Declaration at WTO MC11 is expected to guide the work of the LDC Group for the next WTO MC in 2019.
Bhutan, as a beneficiary of Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) took opportunity to share its experiences and initiatives undertaken in the area of trade and trade related sectors through EIF funding. While acknowledging the benefits accrued from EIF support, the need for further support from donors to undertake ecommerce activities in the EIF beneficiary countries in a sustained manner is reiterated.
The WTO Ministerial Conference is the highest decision making body of the WTO and the conference is held once every two years. The Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 15-19 December, 2015.