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,[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

An offer of accession is given once consensus is reached among members.[4] 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,[5] Vanuatu, lasting 17 years and 1 month,[6] and China, lasting 15 years and 5 months.[7]

As of 2007, WTO member states represented 96.4% of global trade and 96.7% of global GDP.[8] Iran, followed by Algeria, are the economies with the largest GDP and trade outside the WTO, using 2005 data.[9][10]

Accession process

WTO accession progress:[11]
  Draft Working Party Report or Factual Summary adopted
  Goods and/or Services offers submitted
  Working party meetings
  Memorandum on Foreign Trade Regime submitted
  Working party established

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.[2] 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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[3]

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.[2]

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.[14] The documents used in the accession process which are embargoed during the accession process are released once the nation becomes a member.[3]

Members and observers

A world map of WTO participation:
  Members, dually represented with the European Union

As of July 2016, the WTO has 164 members.[15] 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.[16][17] Four other states, China, Lebanon, Liberia, Syria, were parties to GATT but subsequently withdrew from the treaty prior to the establishment of the WTO.[16][18] 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)"[19][20] 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,[15] 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.[21] The Palestinian Authority submitted a request for WTO observer status in October 2009[22] and again in April 2010.[23]

Afghanistan is the newest member, joining effective 29 July 2016.[24]

Russia was one of the only two large economies outside of the WTO after Saudi Arabia joined in 2005.[25][26] 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,[25] 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

The following table lists all current members, their accession date and previous GATT membership, of which there were 128 nations when the transformation was consummated.[15][17][27]

State[15][28][17] Date of accession GATT membership
 Afghanistan29 July 2016
 Albania8 September 2000
 Angola23 November 19968 April 1994
 Antigua and Barbuda1 January 199530 March 1987
 Argentina1 January 199511 October 1967
 Armenia5 February 2003
 Australia1 January 19951 January 1948
 Austria[lower-alpha 1]1 January 199519 October 1951
 Bahrain1 January 199513 December 1993
 Bangladesh1 January 199516 December 1972
 Barbados1 January 199515 February 1967
 Belgium[lower-alpha 1]1 January 19951 January 1948
 Belize1 January 19957 October 1983
 Benin22 February 199612 September 1963
 Bolivia12 September 19958 September 1990
 Botswana31 May 199528 August 1987
 Brazil1 January 199530 July 1948
 Brunei1 January 19959 December 1993
 Bulgaria[lower-alpha 2]1 December 1996
 Burkina Faso3 June 19953 May 1963
 Burundi23 July 199513 March 1965
 Cambodia13 October 2004
 Cameroon13 December 19953 May 1963
 Canada1 January 19951 January 1948
 Cape Verde23 July 2008
 Central African Republic31 May 19953 May 1963
 Chad19 October 199612 July 1963
 Chile1 January 199516 March 1949
 People's Republic of China11 December 2001
 Colombia30 April 19953 October 1981
 Republic of the Congo27 March 19973 May 1963
 Democratic Republic of the Congo1 January 199711 September 1971
 Costa Rica1 January 199524 November 1990
 Côte d'Ivoire1 January 199531 December 1963
 Croatia[lower-alpha 3]30 November 2000
 Cuba20 April 19951 January 1948
 Cyprus[lower-alpha 4]30 July 199515 July 1963
 Czech Republic[lower-alpha 4]1 January 199515 April 1993
 Denmark[lower-alpha 1]1 January 199528 May 1950
 Djibouti31 May 199516 December 1994
 Dominica1 January 199520 April 1993
 Dominican Republic9 March 199519 May 1950
 Ecuador21 January 1996
 Egypt30 June 19959 May 1970
 El Salvador7 May 199522 May 1991
 Estonia[lower-alpha 4]13 November 1999
 Eswatini[lower-alpha 5]1 January 19958 February 1993
 European Union[lower-alpha 6]1 January 1995
 Fiji14 January 199616 November 1993
 Finland[lower-alpha 1]1 January 199525 May 1950
 France[lower-alpha 1]1 January 19951 January 1948
 Gabon1 January 19953 May 1963
 Gambia23 October 199622 February 1965
 Georgia14 June 2000
 Germany[lower-alpha 1]1 January 19951 October 1951
 Ghana1 January 199517 October 1957
 Greece[lower-alpha 1]1 January 19951 March 1950
 Grenada22 February 19969 February 1994
 Guatemala21 July 199510 October 1991
 Guinea25 October 19958 December 1994
 Guinea-Bissau31 May 199517 March 1994
 Guyana1 January 19955 July 1966
 Haiti30 January 19961 January 1950
 Honduras1 January 199510 April 1994
 Hong Kong[lower-alpha 7]1 January 199523 April 1986
 Hungary[lower-alpha 4]1 January 19959 September 1973
 Iceland1 January 199521 April 1968
 India1 January 19958 July 1948
 Indonesia1 January 199524 February 1950
 Ireland[lower-alpha 1]1 January 199522 December 1967
 Israel21 April 19955 July 1962
 Italy[lower-alpha 1]1 January 199530 May 1950
 Jamaica9 March 199531 December 1963
 Japan1 January 199510 September 1955
 Jordan11 April 2000
 Kazakhstan30 November 2015
 Kenya1 January 19955 February 1964
 South Korea1 January 199514 April 1967
 Kuwait1 January 19953 May 1963
 Kyrgyzstan20 December 1998
 Laos2 February 2013
 Latvia[lower-alpha 4]10 February 1999
 Lesotho31 May 19958 January 1988
 Liberia14 July 2016
 Liechtenstein1 September 199529 March 1994
 Lithuania[lower-alpha 4]31 May 2001
 Luxembourg[lower-alpha 1]1 January 19951 January 1948
 Madagascar17 November 199530 September 1963
 Malawi31 May 199528 August 1964
 Malaysia1 January 199524 October 1957
 Maldives31 May 199519 April 1983
 Mali31 May 199511 January 1993
 Malta[lower-alpha 4]1 January 199517 November 1964
 Macau[lower-alpha 8]1 January 199511 January 1991
 Mauritania31 May 199530 September 1963
 Mauritius1 January 19952 September 1970
 Mexico1 January 199524 August 1986
 Moldova26 July 2001
 Mongolia29 January 1997
 Montenegro29 April 2012[29]
 Morocco1 January 199517 June 1987
 Mozambique26 August 199527 July 1992
 Myanmar1 January 199529 July 1948
 Namibia1 January 199515 September 1992
   Nepal23 April 2004
 Netherlands[lower-alpha 1]1 January 19951 January 1948
 New Zealand1 January 199530 July 1948
 Nicaragua3 September 199528 May 1950
 Niger13 December 199631 December 1963
 Nigeria1 January 199518 November 1960
 North Macedonia[lower-alpha 9]4 April 2003
 Norway1 January 199510 July 1948
 Oman9 November 2000
 Pakistan1 January 199530 July 1948
 Panama6 September 1997
 Papua New Guinea9 June 199616 December 1994
 Paraguay1 January 19956 January 1994
 Peru1 January 19957 October 1951
 Philippines1 January 199527 December 1979
 Poland[lower-alpha 4]1 July 199518 October 1967
 Portugal[lower-alpha 1]1 January 19956 May 1962
 Qatar13 January 19967 April 1994
 Romania[lower-alpha 2]1 January 199514 November 1971
 Russia22 August 2012
 Rwanda22 May 19961 January 1966
 Saint Kitts and Nevis21 February 199624 March 1994
 Saint Lucia1 January 199513 April 1993
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines1 January 199518 May 1993
 Samoa10 May 2012[29]
 Saudi Arabia11 December 2005
 Senegal1 January 199527 September 1963
 Seychelles26 April 2015
 Sierra Leone23 July 199519 May 1961
 Singapore1 January 199520 August 1973
 Slovakia[lower-alpha 4]1 January 199515 April 1993
 Slovenia[lower-alpha 4]30 July 199530 October 1994
 Solomon Islands26 July 199628 December 1994
 South Africa1 January 199513 June 1948
 Spain[lower-alpha 1]1 January 199529 August 1963
 Sri Lanka1 January 199529 July 1948
 Suriname1 January 199522 March 1978
 Sweden[lower-alpha 1]1 January 199530 April 1950
  Switzerland1 July 19951 August 1966
 Taiwan[lower-alpha 10]1 January 2002
 Tajikistan2 March 2013
 Tanzania1 January 19959 December 1961
 Thailand1 January 199520 November 1982
 Togo31 May 199520 March 1964
 Tonga27 July 2007
 Trinidad and Tobago1 March 199523 October 1962
 Tunisia29 March 199529 August 1990
 Turkey26 March 199517 October 1951
 Uganda1 January 199523 October 1962
 Ukraine16 May 2008
 United Arab Emirates10 April 19968 March 1994
 United Kingdom1 January 19951 January 1948
 United States1 January 19951 January 1948
 Uruguay1 January 19956 December 1953
 Vanuatu24 August 2012[6]
 Venezuela1 January 199531 August 1990
 Vietnam11 January 2007
 Yemen26 June 2014
 Zambia1 January 199510 February 1982
 Zimbabwe5 March 199511 July 1948
  1. Member state of the European Union.
  2. Member state of the European Union since 2007.
  3. Member state of the European Union since 2013.
  4. Member state of the European Union since 2004.
  5. Known as Swaziland until 2018.
  6. All member countries of the European Union are also members of the WTO individually.
  7. Known as British Hong Kong until 1997.
  8. Known as Portuguese Macau until 1999.
  9. Known as the Republic of Macedonia until 2019.
  10. Acceded to the WTO as the "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu", shortened as "Chinese Taipei".

List of observers

The following table lists all 25 WTO observers.[15][30] Within five years of being granted observer status by the WTO, states are required to begin negotiating their accession to the organization.[15]

State Date of membership application Status[31]
 Algeria3 June 1987Inactive since 2014
 Andorra4 July 1997Inactive since 1999
 Azerbaijan30 June 1997Work in progress
 Bahamas10 May 2001Work in progress
 Belarus23 September 1993Work in progress
 Bhutan1 September 1999Inactive since 2008
 Bosnia and Herzegovina11 May 1999Strategic focus
 Comoros22 February 2007Strategic focus
 Curaçao[32]31 October 2019[33]Activation
 Equatorial Guinea19 February 2007Activation
 Ethiopia13 January 2003Work in progress
  Holy SeeNone[lower-alpha 1]Observer since 1997[34]
 Iran19 July 1996Inactive since 2011
 Iraq30 September 2004Reactivation
 Lebanon[lower-alpha 2]30 January 1999Reactivation
 Libya10 June 2004Inactive since 2004
 São Tomé and Príncipe14 January 2005Inactive since 2005
 Serbia23 December 2004Reactivation
 Somalia12 December 2015[35]Activation
 South Sudan5 December 2017[36]Work in progress
 Sudan11 October 1994Work in progress
 Syria[lower-alpha 2]10 October 2001Inactive since 2010
 Timor-Leste9 April 2015[35]Work in progress
 TurkmenistanNoneObserver status granted 22 July 2020[37]
 Uzbekistan8 December 1994Work in progress
  1. The Holy See is exempted from having to negotiate full WTO membership.[15]
  2. Was a party to GATT prior to withdrawing.[18][16]

Neither members nor observers

The following table lists all the UN member states and UN General Assembly observer states which are neither members nor observers of the WTO.[15]

Additionally,  Kosovo has expressed an interest in joining the WTO.[40]

  1. Submitted applications for observer status on 2 October 2009 and 12 April 2010.[38][39]
  2. Expression of interest in membership application.[31][40]

See also

  • List of customs territories


  1. Legal texts: the WTO agreements at World Trade Organization
  2. Membership, Alliances and Bureaucracy, World Trade Organization
  3. Accessions Summary, Center for International Development
  4. C. Michalopoulos, WTO Accession, 64
  5. Russia's entry to WTO ends 19 years of negotiations The Guardian, 22 August 2012
  6. Vanuatu:accession status at WTO official website
  7. P. Farah, "Five Years of China's WTO Membership", 263–304
  8. "Accession in perspective". World Trade Organization. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  9. "ANNEX 1. STATISTICAL SURVEY". World Trade Organization. 2005. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  10. Arjomandy, Danial (21 November 2013). "Iranian Membership in the World Trade Organization: An Unclear Future". Iranian Studies. 47 (6): 933–950. doi:10.1080/00210862.2013.859810. S2CID 162297876.
  11. "Summary Table of Ongoing Accessions". World Trade Organization. April 2014. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  12. C. Michalopoulos, WTO Accession, 62
  13. C. Michalopoulos, WTO Accession, 63
  14. How to Become a Member of the WTO, World Trade Organization
  15. Members and Observers at WTO official website
  16. "World Trade Report" (PDF). World Trade Organization. 2007. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  17. "The 128 countries that had signed GATT by 1994". World Trade Organization. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  18. "Article XXXI - Withdrawal" (PDF). World Trade Organization. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  19. Jackson J. H., Sovereignty, p. 109
  20. "Member information - Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (Chinese Taipei) and the WTO". World Trade Organization. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  21. International Intergovernmental Organizations Granted Observer Status to WTO Bodies, World Trade Organization
  22. "Palestine - Request for Observer Status". Taiwan WTO Center. 6 October 2009. Archived from the original on 22 December 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  23. "Palestine - Request for Observer Status". Taiwan TWO Center. 13 April 2010. Archived from the original on 22 December 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  24. "Afghanistan to become 164th WTO member on 29 July 2016". World Trade Organization. 29 June 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  25. "Russia becomes WTO member after 18 years of talks". BBC. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
  26. Heilprin, John (17 December 2011). "Russia gets approval to join the WTO". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
  27. "ACCESSIONS: Protocols of accession for new members since 1995, including commitments in goods and services". World Trade Organization. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  28. Status of WTO Legal Instruments (PDF). World Trade Organization. 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  29. Montenegro and Samoa strengthen the WTO WTO media release, 30 April 2012
  30. "WTO Members and Accession Candidates". World Trade Organization. March 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  31. "WTO ACCESSIONS 2020 ANNUAL REPORT BY THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL*". World Trade Organization. 8 March 2021. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  32. "Members endorse Curaçao's bid for WTO membership". World Trade Organization. 3 March 2020. Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  33. "WTO Accession Newsletter No 96" (PDF). World Trade Organization. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  34. "Welcome to the Holy See Mission". Holy See Mission to the United Nations in Geneva. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  35. "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.
  36. "WTO Accession Newsletter" (PDF). World Trade Organization. December 2017. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  37. "Members endorse Turkmenistan's WTO observer status". World Trade Organization. 22 July 2020. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  38. "WT/L/770 - PALESTINE – REQUEST FOR OBSERVER STATUS". World Trade Organization. 6 October 2009. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  39. "WT/L/792 - PALESTINE – REQUEST FOR OBSERVER STATUS". World Trade Organization. 13 April 2010. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  40. "WTO ACCESSIONS 2018 ANNUAL REPORT BY THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL" (PDF). World Trade Organization. 11 December 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2018.

Bibliography and Web

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