Nepal’s experience acceding to the WTO

2012. Nepal’s accession to the WTO was seen not as an end in itself but as a key element in the pursuit of national development objectives. It was imperative for the country that the terms of accession agreed for WTO membership fell within the parameters of the defined development goals.

Negotiations were highly demanding for Nepal. Because of the constructive ambiguity in the legal provisions dealing with accession in the Agreement establishing the WTO, incumbent members wield disproportionate power over aspiring members who are required to assume several more obligations than the founding members as a price for their entry into the multilateral trading system. Although there are no signs of any shift in the balance of power, a decision by the General Council in December 2002 to streamline the process of least developed countries’ (LDCs) accession to the WTO has helped limit to some extent the possibility of imposing unfair conditions on LDCs.

Overall, Nepal’s accession package is considered relatively well balanced in terms of both offering a credible signal to traders and foreign investors about its commitment to economic reform and maintaining the policy space required to protect its development interests.  This did not happen by accident. It was a result of a thoughtful negotiating approach taken by the country. It entailed, among other things, coordination across government agencies, mobilization of external support and diplomatic capital, and wide consultations with a range of stakeholders, including the private sector, civil society organizations (CSOs) and farmers’ groups.