Timeline: 2002 – 2011
Donor: Switzerland (SECO)
Shortly after independence in 1943, Lebanon acceded to the GATT as a founding member in 1947 and became a model for social and economic development in the Middle East. The country was unable to participate to the Uruguay Round negotiations due to the civil war, which ravaged the country and destroyed physical infrastructure and housing, displaced large portions of the population and weakened institutions. Lebanon thus formulated a request to negotiate its accession to the WTO in 1999 under Article XII of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO.
Accession to the WTO is seen by the Lebanese government, together with the conclusion of economic and trade agreements with its main partners, as a means to allow Lebanon to re-integrate the world economy and to increase trade and investment with regional and global players. It is further seen by the government as a vehicle to modernise economic and trade regimes aimed at ensuring more competitive and transparent behaviour by economic actors.
Overall Goal and Content
The overarching goal of the project was to facilitate Lebanon’s re-integration into the multilateral trading system, as a means to foster trade and investment with its regional and global partners. To this end, the project provided advice at the Government’s request on various trade-related measures with a view to facilitating Lebanon’s successful accession to the WTO.
More specifically, the project provided advice to the Lebanese government on the various negotiation approaches in discussions on market access for goods and services, as well as on the implementation of its obligations stemming from the various WTO agreements.
“The goal of the project was to facilitate Lebanon’s reintegration in the world economy and to increase trade and investment with regional and global players.”
The project aimed at:
- Fostering close coordination amongst concerned ministries and the private sector in the context of preparatory work for the accession, as well as in the design of policy measures required for the implementation of WTO Agreements;
- Raising awareness amongst public and private stakeholders with regard to the overall and sector-specific implications of a WTO accession;
- Advising the Ministry of Economy and Trade (MoET) on market access negotiations in goods and services as well as on strategies for responding to requests from WTO Members, ensuring consistency between WTO Agreements and the preferential arrangements in place or to be negotiated;
- Advising the MoET in the preparation of meetings of the Working Party which consider the terms of Lebanon’s accession to the WTO (inter alia with respect to the commitments to be undertaken on the multilateral rules);
- Providing targeted technical assistance for negotiations in a specific sector and/or concerning to the implementation of internal measures linked to the WTO Accession process (e.g. services negotiations, agriculture export promotion, trade remedies).
The project consisted of two main components with related activities:
- A trade policy advice component, consisting of advice and analytical inputs (“backstopping”) to the government regarding various aspects of WTO disciplines (e.g. market access for goods and services, agriculture, state trading, licensing, non-tariff measures). Under this component, IDEAS provided the requested assistance to the MoET during the negotiation process.
- A specific technical assistance component in sectors of key economic importance linked to the WTO accession process. The exact scope of these activities was defined with the MoET in order to respond flexibly and rapidly to its specific needs during the accession process. For instance, assistance was provided in the services negotiations.
In 2005, Lebanon faced a series of serious political crises which slowed down the work on its accession negotiations and hence the programme under this project. Nonetheless, one strategy mission was held early in 2005 and IDEAS provided Lebanese officials with a document analysing aspects of its export regime in agricultural products. IDEAS also provided assistance to Lebanon in the preparation of the Fourth meeting of its accession Working Party held on 3 March 2006. Subsequent missions and work on the preparation of documentation to the WTO have occurred to prepare for the meetings of Lebanon’s Working Party in July 2007 and February 2009. Due to another serious political crisis, followed by the civil conflict in neighbouring Syria, activities on this project were finally suspended in 2011.