Negotiations on Saudi Arabia's application for accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) are almost complete, and the Kingdom is expected to join the 146-member organization as early as the middle of this year. During the two days of meetings in Geneva this week, bilateral agreements were signed with Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Thailand, Ecuador, Cuba, Sri Lanka and Poland. The Kingdom is also due to sign with India later today. This brings to 30 the total of WTO members with which the Kingdom has signed agreements on trade in goods and services. Such agreements are a prerequisite for Saudi membership.
Negotiations need to be finalized with just five other countries: China, Panama, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States. Agreements on the first four are expected within a couple of weeks, and there is only one more session scheduled with the United States. Negotiations on multilateral issues are also near completion, ready for the next meeting in two months’ time of the WTO task force studying the Kingdom’s application. Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer, Russia and Ukraine are the three largest economies still not admitted to the WTO. All three opened negotiations in the mid-1990s.
Minister of Commerce and Industry Dr. Hashim Yamani said he was optimistic that the remaining agreements could be completed soon, commenting that the Kingdom has finalized most of the requirements needed in respect of economic reform, restructure of public enterprises, and relevant regulations including those on intellectual property laws, import licenses, and customs tariffs, in addition to the establishment of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and granting incentives for foreign investment.