Last week's visit provided a reminder of the trade and investment opportunities in Iraq, a country currently achieving GDP growth rates of 7.8pc - rates to which many countries can only aspire. As part of Iraq's continued reintegration into the global economy, the UK must consider what more it can do to support Iraq's World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession process.He goes on to discuss how liberalization proceeded in Saudi Arabia [?!] in order to meet WTO membership criteria. Along the way, he mentions a host of other Middle Eastern states that, like Iraq, should be taken in. Somehow, though, I think Iraq's current chances rate even lower than those of Russia.
World leaders should cooperate to encourage Iraq into the WTO, not just as a major benefit to Iraq but also to the rest of the world. For internal reform and economic development, membership is vital for Iraq itself but it is also crucial in broader geopolitical terms.
The WTO has, however, been notably absent from the headlines since the collapse of the latest Doha Round of trade liberalising talks last December. With the attention of world leaders now focused on the financial crisis it could be questioned whether there is the time or the will to make a compelling case for trade liberalisation.
Furthermore, the current economic climate begs the question whether countries that remain outside the 153-member Geneva-based WTO club, such as Iraq, should continue their journey on the road to membership. I believe, unequivocally, that they should. The benefits of WTO membership stem from the cumulative impact of the hundreds of legislative, policy and institutional changes that countries make in order to join. Those reforms provide applicant countries with an operating system that's ready to be integrated into the global economic system.
Membership of the WTO serves to discipline Governments in their dealings with the private sector, and, since WTO commitments are binding, creates a more predictable, secure and enticing business environment for the internal and external investors alike.
Thomas Friedman. From the Daily Telegraph: