Contributing Lawyers

Canada

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross

Australia

Andrew Hudson



What is the Rush? Yemen Reports that Canada and Yemen to Sign Deal Re WTO Accession

According to the Yemen News Agency, representatives from Canada and Yemen met on the week-end and the countries will soon sign a bilateral  agreement concerning Yemen's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).  Please go to the following link for the news report - http://ow.ly/UXWo

By way of background, Yemen filed a request to join the WTO in July 2000. The Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime was circulated in November 2002, and the first meeting of the Working Party took place in November 2004. An Elements of a draft Report (a detailed document summarizing discussions in the Working Party) was circulated in September 2008. Bilateral market access negotiations are underway on the basis of revised offers in goods and services. The fifth meeting of the Working Party took place in October 2008.  Please go to the following link for more information - http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/acc_e/a1_yemen_e.htm

This single bilateral agreement, if it is signed soon, does not mean that Yemen will join the WTO anytime soon. Yemen will have to satisfy other WTO Members and enter into bilateral agreements.  After the agreements have been signed, the Working Party Report and Protocol of Accession will need to be prepared.  The WTO General Council will make its decision only after these and other steps are undertaken. In short, we are a long way away from Yemen becoming a member of the WTO.

Under Canadian law, it is not necessary for the Prime Minister to obtain permission from the House of Commons or the Senate to negotiate with prospective WTO members. 

All this being said, I am not sure whether this is the time to sign any bilateral agreement with Yemen.  There are serious questions about security and trade and whether any deal should contain commitments for secure trade in goods, services and mobility of persons. Given all the news reports about Yemen and the influx of terrorists in that country, this may be the right time to negotiate an agreement with adequate protections.  It is time to take a new approach to accessions and Canada could show initiative.

I do hope the news reports from Yemen are premature.

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