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South Sudan kicks off WTO membership negotiations

Christian Fernsby |
At the first meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of South Sudan on 21 March 2019, WTO members expressed support for working with the world’s youngest nation in order to advance its accession negotiations.

South Sudan pledged to use the WTO accession process as an instrument for promoting peace.

"All journeys, short or long, start by a mere single step," said Aggrey Tisa Sabuni, Chief Negotiator and Presidential Advisor on Economic Affairs, who led a 13-person delegation in Geneva.

The delegation also included senior officials from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and East African Community (EAC) Affairs, the Ministry of Petroleum, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and the Bank of South Sudan as well as a member of the Legislative Assembly.

Mr Sabuni said that Juba "stands committed to undertake the required reforms for WTO accession in accordance with the principles of the rule of law, transparency, good governance and respect for human rights." Referring to the ongoing implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement signed in September 2018, he added: "Words are not enough.

"The real question is whether the leadership have the leverage to do things differently." It is this context that "draws us to multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization for guidance and inspiration.

"It is through institutions such as the WTO that we can prove our commitment to reforms at all costs," he added.

Mr Sabuni stressed that apart from oil, which currently accounts for nearly 90% of budget revenues, 60% of its GDP and 95% of exports, South Sudan does not export many products.

However, studies have shown that South Sudan has significant potential in agriculture, mining, fisheries, forestry and tourism.

"Accordingly, we believe opening up to the rest of the world is critical to attracting foreign investment, which is needed to develop and realize South Sudan’s potential in other sectors, including jump-starting an industrial and manufacturing sector, not only to diversify the country’s export basket but also to generate high productivity employment for our people, who are mostly young," he said.

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