By Anush Dashnents
Armenia is likely to be admitted into the World Trade Organization early next year after failing to secure the membership this year, a senior government official said on Monday.
Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Tigran Davtian, who had earlier predicted WTO membership by the end of 2001, told RFE/RL that Yerevan now hopes to join the Geneva-based body setting rules for global trade “in the first half of 2002.”
Davtian said that bilateral trade negotiations between Armenia and WTO member countries are already complete and that talks are now continuing on a multilateral basis. He added that agreement has already been reached on most contentious issues, including a 15 percent ceiling on taxes on imported goods.
The Armenian authorities have also enacted a set of economic laws required for WTO membership.
With a maximum rate of import duties set at ten percent, Armenia has one of the most liberal trade regimes in the former Soviet Union. A recent joint study by The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation noted a “very low level of protectionism” in the country’s external trade.
The Armenian government hopes that WTO membership will give the country better access to foreign markets and make it more attractive to foreign investors. Yerevan may also get a strong boost for its long-running efforts to end the economic blockade imposed by Turkey almost ten years ago. A WTO expert who visited the Armenian capital in June argued that WTO rules prohibit member states from imposing economic blockades on each other and require them to guarantee free transit of cargoes through their territory.