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Ambassador Punke’s Statement at Fifth and Final Working Party Meeting for Afghanistan
November 12, 2015

Statement at the Fifth and Final Working Party Meeting for Afghanistan
November 11, 2015
As delivered by Ambassador Michael Punke

Thank you Chair.  And, a very warm welcome to the delegation from Afghanistan.

On behalf of the United States, I would like to take this opportunity to extend our hearty congratulations to the government of Afghanistan for the completion of its accession process.  Accession negotiations are never easy, but it is even more challenging for least-developed countries.  Afghanistan has worked exceptionally hard in very difficult times to adopt new laws, establish new institutions, and conclude its negotiations.

Through the accession process, Afghanistan has incorporated broad economic reforms and its development goals within the framework of adopting WTO provisions.  We recognize and commend the Government for steps it has taken to enact implementing legislation prior to the date of accession in most cases.  The goods and services schedules (including commitments for export duties) are comprehensive and demonstrate clearly Afghanistan’s goal of establishing a stable, predictable and commercially liberal economic environment for its businesses.  In addition we see that domestic regulations are being aligned with WTO provisions.

Importantly, the right of administrative appeal has been clarified, and there is a new trade license for importation and exportation.  Investment procurement rules will be reformed in the extraction industries.  The application of taxes and customs fees to trade is being simplified and modernized. We are also particularly pleased that Afghanistan has decided to join the Information Technology Agreement.

As part of its WTO implementation, Afghanistan has committed to enhanced transparency in services licensing.  These measures, among many other improvements in its trade laws and regulations, demonstrate clearly that Afghanistan is using WTO accession to enhance its economic infrastructure for investment and commercial development.

The United States is pleased to have been able to provide consistent and concrete technical assistance and capacity building to the Government of Afghanistan throughout the accession process – provided through our U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Commerce Commercial Law Development Program.   And we look forward to continuing these strong partnerships moving forward.

Under the able leadership of Minister Humayoon Rasaw and his deputy Mozammil Shinwari, Afghanistan is now prepared to move forward to join the WTO.  It is a very happy occasion for my delegation that we now will adopt Afghanistan’s WTO accession package.  Again, congratulations, and we look forward to Afghanistan taking its Member’s seat as soon as possible.

Thank you.