EghtesadOnline: An Iranian delegation attended the 11th World Trade Organization meeting this week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as observer member.
The delegation comprised of representatives from the parliament, Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade, IRNA reported.
The meeting kicked off on Sunday and will wrap up on December 13, according to Financial Tribune.
Argentina on Monday called for strengthening the multilateral system of trade during a ministerial meeting in the capital, Xinhua reported.
Addressing participants in the opening session, Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship Jorge Faurie said his country hopes that the conference “sends a message about the importance of (having) an open and fair international system of trade based on rules, which contributes to, among other things, consolidating the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda.”
Iran became an observer member to World Trade Organization in 2005, but WTO failed to assign a group chairman to discuss Iran’s foreign trade regime, arguably due to Washington’s hostile stance toward Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
This is while senior economist Mohammad Mehdi Behkish, a leading free trade advocate and secretary-general of the International Chamber of Commerce’s Iranian Committee, believes the main reason for the slow progress in Iran’s accession bid should be sought inside the Islamic Republic.
“Imagine if there was no external factor, we would still not be ready to join the WTO,” he told Financial Tribune in an interview earlier this year.
“There is no consensus [among influential groups]. It has to do, for the most part, with their economic interests.”
The economist said Iran has not pushed enough to pressure WTO to select a chairman for Iran’s working party.
Mojtaba Khosrotaj, the head of Trade Promotion Organization of Iran, said in August that joining WTO is no longer a priority due to America’s aggressive Iran policy under US President Donald Trump.
“Our priority is now to increase cooperation with neighboring countries and those in the region, which offer the most benefits to us,” he said.
Not being a WTO member, Iran has been banking on preferential trade agreements with the limited number of countries it has strong economic trade ties with.
A PTA with Turkey was implemented early 2015 and similar deals are expected to be signed with Eurasian Economic Union states, among others.
“There is a need to sign free or preferential trade agreements with other countries. Since we are not a member of World Trade Organization, we are made to pay up to 20% tariff. FTAs and PTAs can help us get past this barrier,” Chairman of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Gholamhossein Shafei was quoted as saying in a ceremony held in Tehran in October on the occasion of Iran’s National Export Day.
Ahead of the Buenos Aires meeting, the United States blocked efforts to draft a joint statement emphasizing the “centrality” of the global trade system and the need to aid development. Its opposition has raised concerns that the WTO will not be able to accomplish even modest goals, such as addressing fishing and agricultural subsidies, at the conference, Reuters reported.
Trump has indicated his preference for bilateral deals over the multilateral system embodied by the WTO. The United States has vetoed new judges for trade disputes, pushing the organization into a crisis.
“Most participants can agree on one thing. The WTO, which codifies the multilateral rules-based trading system, needs help. President Donald Trump has railed against it and threatened to pull America out. Without American leadership, there is little hope of reaching new deals. And even as the WTO’s dealmaking arm is paralyzed, the Trump administration is weakening its judicial one by starving it of judges,” the Economist wrote.
The World Trade Organization is an intergovernmental organization that regulates international trade. It officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 123 states on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which commenced in 1948. It is the largest international economic organization in the world.