Algeria resumes dialogue with WTO

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By Dr Arslan Chikhaoui Co-Founder and President ABBC.

After more than 34 years since its request to join the multilateral trade system in 1987, the Algerian Government has just announced the resumption of the process of dialogue and negotiations for its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). This negotiation process reached the 10th round in 2012 and was then suspended unilaterally. This approach is concomitant with that of revisiting the Association Agreement with the European Union. This global approach is considered to be pragmatic, devoid of any dogma.

The announcement was made by the Minister of Trade on the occasion of his participation in the work of the meeting of African Union (AU) ministers responsible for trade with the WTO. He spoke about the preparations for the 12th virtual ministerial meeting of the WTO, scheduled for November 30 to December 3, 2021 in Geneva. According to the Minister of Commerce: “Algeria is moving forward towards accession to the WTO by highlighting the opportunities offered by this body for the revival of the national economy through the initiation of ‘a series of far-reaching reforms capable of promoting foreign trade and integration into the regional and global value chain. The minister cited as an example the revision of rule 49/51 governing foreign investment in Algeria, maintained for certain strategic sectors, and its positive repercussions on the attractiveness of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and the increase in volume. trade. At this stage, we know that the examination of the Algerian trade regime is continuing with regard to import licenses, technical barriers to trade, the implementation of sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, the application of internal taxes, privatizations, subsidies and certain aspects of the protection of intellectual property rights.

Indeed, the Algerian authorities have always been reserved on the conditions of access and must, at present, take formal decisions in order to obtain authorization to effectively join the WTO. The dual health and economic crisis that the country has been experiencing for two years has revealed the vulnerability of Algerian foreign trade often characterized by the predominance of imports compared to exports, which constitutes a real handicap for the country which wishes to achieve relatively economic and sustainable financial autonomy.

According to knowledgeable observers, the Algerian Government now wants to establish a united, inclusive and resilient economy, which requires real strategic planning and the initiation of far-reaching reforms. It also envisages making formal and clear decisions regarding the strategy of investment, production and export. It is clear that the Government is trying, with difficulty, to change its economic trajectory to establish a new solid, non-dogmatic model. To do this, it will inevitably in the short term have to abandon certain measures of economic protectionism such as the 49/51 rule governing foreign investment and the country’s tariff policy.

According to knowledgeable observers, the Ministry of Commerce will indeed have to structure its road map into different axes and pay more attention to a strict application of regulations and laws as well as results and incentives. The regulatory channel is also important to strengthen partnerships between local operators (all sectors combined) and foreign operators, hence the need to revise the country’s tariff policy as well as the customs and exchange regime to facilitate the movement of goods between countries. partners. At the same time, put back on the table the national export strategy which should not only promote medium-term exports, but guarantee the sustainability of inter-African and international trade through free trade zones and free zones.

Undoubtedly, Algeria will have to increase its efforts to strengthen its trade relations within the Great Arab Free Trade Area, and extend its projections beyond this market to the African continent market (potentially requesting) and that of the countries Mediterranean (more or less saturated). Access to the latter is very restricted for Algerian exporters who need support from the Algerian authorities. Accession to the WTO would indeed facilitate the free movement of Algerian products abroad and become more competitive.

The announcement of the Minister of Commerce concerning the resumption of dialogue and negotiations with the WTO indicates that the Algerian Government seems to be motivated and more pragmatic in terms of trade and FDI and consequently a declared will and a political courage to revise the country’s economic approach.