HL Deb 31 July 1997 vol 582 c97WA
Lord Lester of Herne Hill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the criteria and procedures for admission to the World Trade Organisation.

Lord Clinton-Davis

Once an application for accession from a potential new member country has been accepted by the WTO's General Council, a working party is established. The first task of the working party is to examine all the rules and regulations affecting trade in the applicant country. Once the information-gathering stage is complete, negotiations begin on the terms and conditions of accession. The objective of these negotiations is to ensure that the WTO rules for trade in goods, services and intellectual property rights are fully applied. Save for transitional periods on a case-by-case basis, application of the fundamental WTO principles of non-discrimination and transparency, there is scope for negotiations. In parallel with negotiations on the rules, WTO members negotiate market access commitments in goods (tariffs) and services bilaterally with the applicant country. There is no set timetable for any part of this process; it depends largely on the pace set by the applicant country, for example, in providing information and making offers. On final agreements being reached, the outcome, in the form of a working party report, a protocol of accession, and schedules of market access commitments by the applicant country, are forwarded to the General Council for adoption. Once adopted, the applicant country becomes a WTO member 30 days after it has cleared any relevant internal ratification procedures.