Member states of the World Trade Organization
The original member states of the World Trade Organization are the parties to the GATT after ratifying the Uruguay Round Agreements, and the European Communities. They obtained this status at the entry into force on 1 January 1995 or upon their date of ratification. All other members have joined the organization as a result of negotiation, and membership consists of a balance of rights and obligations. The process of becoming a World Trade Organization (WTO) member is unique to each applicant country, and the terms of accession are dependent upon the country's stage of economic development and the current trade regime.
An offer of accession is given once consensus is reached among members. The process takes about five years, on average, but it can take some countries almost a decade if the country is less than fully committed to the process, or if political issues interfere. The shortest accession negotiation was that of Kyrgyzstan, lasting 2 years and 10 months. The longest were that of Russia, lasting 19 years and 2 months, Vanuatu, lasting 17 years and 1 month, and China, lasting 15 years and 5 months.
A country wishing to accede to the WTO submits an application to the General Council. The government applying for membership has to describe all aspects of its trade and economic policies that have a bearing on WTO agreements. The application is submitted to the WTO in a memorandum which is examined by a working party open to all interested WTO Members, and dealing with the country's application. For large countries such as Russia, numerous countries participate in this process. For smaller countries, the Quadrilateral group of members—consisting of the United States, Canada, Japan, and the European Union—and an applicant's neighboring countries are typically most involved. The applicant then presents a detailed memorandum to the Working Party on its foreign trade regime, describing, among other things, its economy, economic policies, domestic and international trade regulations, and intellectual property policies. The Working Party Members submit written questions to the applicant to clarify aspects of its foreign trade regime with particular attention being paid to the degree of privatization in the economy and the extent to which government regulation is transparent. After all necessary background information has been acquired, the Working Party will begin meeting to focus on issues of discrepancy between the WTO rules and the Applicant's international and domestic trade policies and laws. The WP determines the terms and conditions of entry into the WTO for the applicant nation, and may consider transitional periods to allow countries some leeway in complying with the WTO rules.
The final phase of accession involves bilateral negotiations between the applicant nation and other Working Party members regarding the concessions and commitments on tariff levels and market access for goods and services. These talks cover tariff rates and specific market access commitments, and other policies in goods and services. The new member's commitments are to apply equally to all WTO members under normal non-discrimination rules, even though they are negotiated bilaterally. In other words, the talks determine the benefits (in the form of export opportunities and guarantees) other WTO members can expect when the new member joins. The talks can be highly complicated; it has been said that in some cases the negotiations are almost as large as an entire round of multilateral trade negotiations.
When the bilateral talks conclude, the working party finalizes the terms of accession, sends an accession package, which includes a summary of all the WP meetings, the Protocol of Accession (a draft membership treaty), and lists ("schedules") of the member-to-be's commitments to the General Council or Ministerial Conference. Once the General Council or Ministerial Conference approves of the terms of accession, the applicant's parliament must ratify the Protocol of Accession before it can become a member. The documents used in the accession process which are embargoed during the accession process are released once the nation becomes a member.
Members and observers
As of July 2016, the WTO has 164 members. Of the 128 states party to the GATT at the end of 1994, all have since become WTO members except for the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which had dissolved in 1992 and was suspended from participating in GATT at the time. Four other states, China, Lebanon, Liberia, Syria, were parties to GATT but subsequently withdrew from the treaty prior to the establishment of the WTO. China and Liberia have since acceded to the WTO. The remaining WTO members acceded after first becoming WTO observers and negotiating membership.
The 27 states of the European Union are dually represented, as the EU is a full member of the organization. Non-sovereign autonomous entities of member states are eligible for full membership in the WTO provided that they have a separate customs territory with full autonomy in the conduct of their external commercial relations. Thus, Hong Kong became a GATT contracting party, by the now terminated "sponsorship" procedure of the United Kingdom (Hong Kong uses the name "Hong Kong, China" since 1997), as did Macau. A new member of this type is the Republic of China (Taiwan), which acceded to the WTO in 2002, and carefully crafted its application by joining under the name "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (Chinese Taipei)" so that they were not rejected as a result of the People's Republic of China One-China policy.
The WTO also has 24 observer states, that with the exception of the Holy See must start their accession negotiations within five years of becoming observers. The last country admitted as observer-only before applying for full membership was Equatorial Guinea in 2002, but since 2007 it is also in full membership negotiations. In 2007 Liberia and Comoros applied directly for full membership. Some international intergovernmental organizations are also granted observer status to WTO bodies. The Palestinian Authority submitted a request for WTO observer status in October 2009 and again in April 2010.
Afghanistan is the newest member, joining effective 29 July 2016.
Russia was one of the only two large economies outside of the WTO after Saudi Arabia joined in 2005. It had begun negotiating to join the WTO's predecessor in 1993. The final major point of contention—related to the 2008 Russo-Georgian War—was solved through mediation by Switzerland, leading to Russian membership in 2012. The other is Iran, which is an observer state and begun negotiations in 1996.
List of members and accession dates
|State||Date of accession||GATT membership|
|Afghanistan||29 July 2016|
|Albania||8 September 2000|
|Angola||23 November 1996||8 April 1994|
|Antigua and Barbuda||1 January 1995||30 March 1987|
|Argentina||1 January 1995||11 October 1967|
|Armenia||5 February 2003|
|Australia||1 January 1995||1 January 1948|
|Austria||1 January 1995||19 October 1951|
|Bahrain||1 January 1995||13 December 1993|
|Bangladesh||1 January 1995||16 December 1972|
|Barbados||1 January 1995||15 February 1967|
|Belgium||1 January 1995||1 January 1948|
|Belize||1 January 1995||7 October 1983|
|Benin||22 February 1996||12 September 1963|
|Bolivia||12 September 1995||8 September 1990|
|Botswana||31 May 1995||28 August 1987|
|Brazil||1 January 1995||30 July 1948|
|Brunei||1 January 1995||9 December 1993|
|Bulgaria||1 December 1996|
|Burkina Faso||3 June 1995||3 May 1963|
|Burundi||23 July 1995||13 March 1965|
|Cambodia||13 October 2004|
|Cameroon||13 December 1995||3 May 1963|
|Canada||1 January 1995||1 January 1948|
|Cape Verde||23 July 2008|
|Central African Republic||31 May 1995||3 May 1963|
|Chad||19 October 1996||12 July 1963|
|Chile||1 January 1995||16 March 1949|
|People's Republic of China||11 December 2001|
|Colombia||30 April 1995||3 October 1981|
|Republic of the Congo||27 March 1997||3 May 1963|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||1 January 1997||11 September 1971|
|Costa Rica||1 January 1995||24 November 1990|
|Côte d'Ivoire||1 January 1995||31 December 1963|
|Croatia||30 November 2000|
|Cuba||20 April 1995||1 January 1948|
|Cyprus||30 July 1995||15 July 1963|
|Czech Republic||1 January 1995||15 April 1993|
|Denmark||1 January 1995||28 May 1950|
|Djibouti||31 May 1995||16 December 1994|
|Dominica||1 January 1995||20 April 1993|
|Dominican Republic||9 March 1995||19 May 1950|
|Ecuador||21 January 1996|
|Egypt||30 June 1995||9 May 1970|
|El Salvador||7 May 1995||22 May 1991|
|Estonia||13 November 1999|
|Eswatini||1 January 1995||8 February 1993|
|European Union||1 January 1995|
|Fiji||14 January 1996||16 November 1993|
|Finland||1 January 1995||25 May 1950|
|France||1 January 1995||1 January 1948|
|Gabon||1 January 1995||3 May 1963|
|Gambia||23 October 1996||22 February 1965|
|Georgia||14 June 2000|
|Germany||1 January 1995||1 October 1951|
|Ghana||1 January 1995||17 October 1957|
|Greece||1 January 1995||1 March 1950|
|Grenada||22 February 1996||9 February 1994|
|Guatemala||21 July 1995||10 October 1991|
|Guinea||25 October 1995||8 December 1994|
|Guinea-Bissau||31 May 1995||17 March 1994|
|Guyana||1 January 1995||5 July 1966|
|Haiti||30 January 1996||1 January 1950|
|Honduras||1 January 1995||10 April 1994|
|Hong Kong||1 January 1995||23 April 1986|
|Hungary||1 January 1995||9 September 1973|
|Iceland||1 January 1995||21 April 1968|
|India||1 January 1995||8 July 1948|
|Indonesia||1 January 1995||24 February 1950|
|Ireland||1 January 1995||22 December 1967|
|Israel||21 April 1995||5 July 1962|
|Italy||1 January 1995||30 May 1950|
|Jamaica||9 March 1995||31 December 1963|
|Japan||1 January 1995||10 September 1955|
|Jordan||11 April 2000|
|Kazakhstan||30 November 2015|
|Kenya||1 January 1995||5 February 1964|
|South Korea||1 January 1995||14 April 1967|
|Kuwait||1 January 1995||3 May 1963|
|Kyrgyzstan||20 December 1998|
|Laos||2 February 2013|
|Latvia||10 February 1999|
|Lesotho||31 May 1995||8 January 1988|
|Liberia||14 July 2016|
|Liechtenstein||1 September 1995||29 March 1994|
|Lithuania||31 May 2001|
|Luxembourg||1 January 1995||1 January 1948|
|Madagascar||17 November 1995||30 September 1963|
|Malawi||31 May 1995||28 August 1964|
|Malaysia||1 January 1995||24 October 1957|
|Maldives||31 May 1995||19 April 1983|
|Mali||31 May 1995||11 January 1993|
|Malta||1 January 1995||17 November 1964|
|Macau||1 January 1995||11 January 1991|
|Mauritania||31 May 1995||30 September 1963|
|Mauritius||1 January 1995||2 September 1970|
|Mexico||1 January 1995||24 August 1986|
|Moldova||26 July 2001|
|Mongolia||29 January 1997|
|Montenegro||29 April 2012|
|Morocco||1 January 1995||17 June 1987|
|Mozambique||26 August 1995||27 July 1992|
|Myanmar||1 January 1995||29 July 1948|
|Namibia||1 January 1995||15 September 1992|
|Nepal||23 April 2004|
|Netherlands||1 January 1995||1 January 1948|
|New Zealand||1 January 1995||30 July 1948|
|Nicaragua||3 September 1995||28 May 1950|
|Niger||13 December 1996||31 December 1963|
|Nigeria||1 January 1995||18 November 1960|
|North Macedonia||4 April 2003|
|Norway||1 January 1995||10 July 1948|
|Oman||9 November 2000|
|Pakistan||1 January 1995||30 July 1948|
|Panama||6 September 1997|
|Papua New Guinea||9 June 1996||16 December 1994|
|Paraguay||1 January 1995||6 January 1994|
|Peru||1 January 1995||7 October 1951|
|Philippines||1 January 1995||27 December 1979|
|Poland||1 July 1995||18 October 1967|
|Portugal||1 January 1995||6 May 1962|
|Qatar||13 January 1996||7 April 1994|
|Romania||1 January 1995||14 November 1971|
|Russia||22 August 2012|
|Rwanda||22 May 1996||1 January 1966|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||21 February 1996||24 March 1994|
|Saint Lucia||1 January 1995||13 April 1993|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||1 January 1995||18 May 1993|
|Samoa||10 May 2012|
|Saudi Arabia||11 December 2005|
|Senegal||1 January 1995||27 September 1963|
|Seychelles||26 April 2015|
|Sierra Leone||23 July 1995||19 May 1961|
|Singapore||1 January 1995||20 August 1973|
|Slovakia||1 January 1995||15 April 1993|
|Slovenia||30 July 1995||30 October 1994|
|Solomon Islands||26 July 1996||28 December 1994|
|South Africa||1 January 1995||13 June 1948|
|Spain||1 January 1995||29 August 1963|
|Sri Lanka||1 January 1995||29 July 1948|
|Suriname||1 January 1995||22 March 1978|
|Sweden||1 January 1995||30 April 1950|
|Switzerland||1 July 1995||1 August 1966|
|Taiwan||1 January 2002|
|Tajikistan||2 March 2013|
|Tanzania||1 January 1995||9 December 1961|
|Thailand||1 January 1995||20 November 1982|
|Togo||31 May 1995||20 March 1964|
|Tonga||27 July 2007|
|Trinidad and Tobago||1 March 1995||23 October 1962|
|Tunisia||29 March 1995||29 August 1990|
|Turkey||26 March 1995||17 October 1951|
|Uganda||1 January 1995||23 October 1962|
|Ukraine||16 May 2008|
|United Arab Emirates||10 April 1996||8 March 1994|
|United Kingdom||1 January 1995||1 January 1948|
|United States||1 January 1995||1 January 1948|
|Uruguay||1 January 1995||6 December 1953|
|Vanuatu||24 August 2012|
|Venezuela||1 January 1995||31 August 1990|
|Vietnam||11 January 2007|
|Yemen||26 June 2014|
|Zambia||1 January 1995||10 February 1982|
|Zimbabwe||5 March 1995||11 July 1948|
- Member state of the European Union.
- Member state of the European Union since 2007.
- Member state of the European Union since 2013.
- Member state of the European Union since 2004.
- Known as Swaziland until 2018.
- All member countries of the European Union are also members of the WTO individually.
- Known as British Hong Kong until 1997.
- Known as Portuguese Macau until 1999.
- Known as the Republic of Macedonia until 2019.
- Acceded to the WTO as the "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu", shortened as "Chinese Taipei".
List of observers
|State||Date of membership application||Status|
|Algeria||3 June 1987||Inactive since 2014|
|Andorra||4 July 1997||Inactive since 1999|
|Azerbaijan||30 June 1997||Work in progress|
|Bahamas||10 May 2001||Work in progress|
|Belarus||23 September 1993||Work in progress|
|Bhutan||1 September 1999||Inactive since 2008|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||11 May 1999||Strategic focus|
|Comoros||22 February 2007||Strategic focus|
|Curaçao||31 October 2019||Activation|
|Equatorial Guinea||19 February 2007||Activation|
|Ethiopia||13 January 2003||Work in progress|
|Holy See||None||Observer since 1997|
|Iran||19 July 1996||Inactive since 2011|
|Iraq||30 September 2004||Reactivation|
|Lebanon||30 January 1999||Reactivation|
|Libya||10 June 2004||Inactive since 2004|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||14 January 2005||Inactive since 2005|
|Serbia||23 December 2004||Reactivation|
|Somalia||12 December 2015||Activation|
|South Sudan||5 December 2017||Work in progress|
|Sudan||11 October 1994||Work in progress|
|Syria||10 October 2001||Inactive since 2010|
|Timor-Leste||9 April 2015||Work in progress|
|Turkmenistan||None||Observer status granted 22 July 2020|
|Uzbekistan||8 December 1994||Work in progress|
Neither members nor observers
Additionally, Kosovo has expressed an interest in joining the WTO.
- List of customs territories
- Legal texts: the WTO agreements at World Trade Organization
- Membership, Alliances and Bureaucracy, World Trade Organization
- Accessions Summary, Center for International Development
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- Russia's entry to WTO ends 19 years of negotiations The Guardian, 22 August 2012
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- P. Farah, "Five Years of China's WTO Membership", 263–304
- "Accession in perspective". World Trade Organization. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
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- Jackson J. H., Sovereignty, p. 109
- "Member information - Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (Chinese Taipei) and the WTO". World Trade Organization. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
- International Intergovernmental Organizations Granted Observer Status to WTO Bodies, World Trade Organization
- "Palestine - Request for Observer Status". Taiwan WTO Center. 6 October 2009. Archived from the original on 22 December 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
- "Palestine - Request for Observer Status". Taiwan TWO Center. 13 April 2010. Archived from the original on 22 December 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
- "Afghanistan to become 164th WTO member on 29 July 2016". World Trade Organization. 29 June 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
- "Russia becomes WTO member after 18 years of talks". BBC. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
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- "ACCESSIONS: Protocols of accession for new members since 1995, including commitments in goods and services". World Trade Organization. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
- Status of WTO Legal Instruments (PDF). World Trade Organization. 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
- Montenegro and Samoa strengthen the WTO WTO media release, 30 April 2012
- "WTO Members and Accession Candidates". World Trade Organization. March 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- "WTO ACCESSIONS 2020 ANNUAL REPORT BY THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL*". World Trade Organization. 8 March 2021. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
- "Members endorse Curaçao's bid for WTO membership". World Trade Organization. 3 March 2020. Retrieved 7 March 2020.
- "WTO Accession Newsletter No 96" (PDF). World Trade Organization. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
- "Welcome to the Holy See Mission". Holy See Mission to the United Nations in Geneva. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
- "WT/ACC/28 - WTO Accessions: 2016 Annual Report by the Director-General — Statement by the Director-General". World Trade Organization. 2 December 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
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- "Members endorse Turkmenistan's WTO observer status". World Trade Organization. 22 July 2020. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
- "WT/L/770 - PALESTINE – REQUEST FOR OBSERVER STATUS". World Trade Organization. 6 October 2009. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
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