Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has not yet become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), even though the procedure started in 1999, and as things stand now, it will not happen at the WTO ministerial conference that will be held in Kazakhstan at the end of the year.
Currently, BiH’s admission to the WTO is blocked by Russia and the United States (U.S.). Besides few tariff lines for industrial and agricultural products, Russia conditions BiH by adopting a decision on the quality of petroleum liquid fuels, on which there is currently no minimum agreement between the competent ministries of the Federation of BiH (FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS). This decision should be adopted by the Council of Ministers of BiH, however, considering the blockade, that will almost certainly not happen.
When it comes to the U.S., BiH is required to allow a foreign legal or natural person who is not a business resident in BiH to release goods for free circulation as a declarant. This issue has already been partially resolved, given that BiH has implemented the directives of the European Union (EU) in this case, but bilateral negotiations have not yet been completed.
“There used to be a problem with Brazil, but we resolved it. How far we have arrived until now, I don’t know exactly, but membership in the WTO would mean a lot to us. As a memberof the WTO, Serbia or Croatia could not blackmail us with some small things, just as some could not impose a ban on the import of certain goods, ” said Nemanja Vasic, vice president of the Foreign Trade Chamber of BiH.
He pointed out that WTO membership is useful when it comes to contacts, but also access to certain markets since there are well-established procedures within the WTO in which cooperation is achieved.
Namely, BiH is one of the few countries in the world that is not a member of the WTO, together with Eritrea, South Sudan, and some other countries. When it comes to Serbia, most of the work for WTO membership has been completed, but the issue of GMOs is still unresolved, because Serbia passed a law in 2009 that completely banned the trade of these products, and one of the basic principles of the WTO is that there is no any general prohibition of any product.
One of the main benefits of WTO membership is that countries are given equal access to markets of about seven billion people.Many small countries, such as BiH, are unable to actively maintain economic relations with many countries, and entry into the WTO would allow domestic businessmen to export their goods to countries with which BiH does not have regulated trade agreements under favorable conditions. The experience of other countries has shown that in just a few years of WTO membership, exports have increased to a large extent, and at the same time reducing the number of economic disputes that arise from time to time between countries.
In BiH, it has been said for years that we are on the threshold of joining the WTO. However, to this day it has not been completed, and it probably will not happen this year either. Almost all authorities, primarily those who managed the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, have set WTO membership as a priority, but it has never been met.
“BiH is in the final phase of negotiations for full membership in the WTO,” it was announced at the end of 2017 from the Parliament of BiH, when the then members of the BiH delegation Ognjen Tadic, Semsudin Mehmedovic, and Predrag Kozul traveled to Buenos Aires, Nezavisne writes.