JUNE 25 2015 (The Bulletin) — After 19 years of negotiations, Kazakhstan will join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) later this year after officially agreeing terms with the economic group.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev was quick to appear on TV to laud the success of the WTO entry.
“The WTO membership opens up new horizons for our economy,” Mr Nazarbayev said on national TV on June 23.
Commodities make up most of Kazakhstan’s foreign trade, already carried at very low tariffs.
Tariffs are at the centre of the debate on Kazakhstan’s WTO membership.
It is also part of the Russia-led Customs Union, which morphed into the Eurasian Economic Union this year. This is, essentially, an old-school trade bloc which promotes free trade between members but puts up barriers to non-members. The other members of the Eurasian Economic Union are Russia, Belarus and Armenia. Kyrgyzstan is on the brink of joining.
Even so, the WTO and Kazakhstan appear to have found a way around this potential stumbling block, although the details are scant.
Kazakh industrials have also been reticent about joining the WTO.
“Our community is concerned that the accession into the WTO would seriously reduce the protection levels and cause the flooding of cheap goods into our markets, which would kill our production,” Rakhim Oshakbayev, deputy chairman of the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs, told Kazakh media.
The terms of the accession remain classified and analysts have questioned this secrecy. When it first applied to join the organisation in 1996, Kazakhstan was a poor country which had just emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Union. Now, the scenario is different.
Kazakhstan is expected to join the WTO, as its 162nd member, by Christmas.
This story was first published in issue 237 of The Conway Bulletin, a weekly newspaper covering Central Asia and the South Caucasus