Lebanon Businessnews News

Slow legal reforms block access to World Trade
USAID said political decisions have to be made
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Lebanon is close to World Trade Organization (WTO) accession provided there is political will to move ahead with legal reforms, an official at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said on Thursday. The USAID has been supporting the country’s integration in the world economy since the government filed a formal request to join the WTO in 1999. The USAID will conclude its latest initiative in this field on November 1.

Zouha Sakr, chief of party of USAID’s WTO Accession project, said the accession process has reached a point where political decisions have to be made to move forward. According to Sakr, two milestones lay ahead of WTO admission: Legislation and negotiations on market access.
“The technical work has been done, studies and draft laws have been prepared, but they have to be passed by the Parliament which is the major block,” Sakr said. Among these drafts are the international trade and licensing law, food safety law, anti-dumping law, and competition law. Throughout drafting these regulations, the USAID introduced a number of policy tools, mainly the Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA), a process that determines the effects regulations will have on the overall cost of a product.

Once legislation is set forth, the government needs to negotiate the terms of its WTO membership. According to Sakr, negotiations on market access in goods and in services should be seriously tackled. Negotiations aim at protecting some of the vital local industries from dumping by tariff-free imports. “It is now the right time (for stakeholders) to perform RIAs so as to know which markets they want to open and what the impacts would be,” said Sakr.

While good progress has been made in preparing accession documents, any further stagnation in the process will undermine the achievements. If the process continues to stagnate, Sakr said, the documentations that have been prepared would need to be revised: “Hopefully, we will be able to use the work that has been done so we don’t have to do everything from scratch.”
Reported by Hanadi Chami
Date Posted: Oct 19, 2012
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