More delays in Vanuatu joining the WTO

24/11/2011

<p style="text-align: justify;">Sixteen years after it applied for membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Vanuatu is yet to become a full fledged member. This week its government deferred its decision to vote once again.<!--more--></p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Vanuatu’s Parliament was scheduled to have debated a bill ratifying the country’s accession to the global trade body but was put off. The country’s Attorney General said the bill was “incomplete.” But the opposition has said it had not received the document that Deputy Prime Minister Ham Lini had signed and was unprepared for a debate in Parliament.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">It is understood the protocol has now been made available to the 52 member House. However, the opposition had earlier said that its 20 MPs would vote against ratification.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Some quarters in the country have been long opposed to the country joining the WTO. The government recently denied permission to the Vanuatu Christian Council to hold a peaceful protest march in the capital Port Vila. Most Christian churches appear to be against the move and have said they would lobby Members of Parliament to refrain from ratifying the decision</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">According to the Council there is poor awareness among the people about the outcomes of the accession and most do not understand what it will mean for them. The government must spread awareness of what it all means to the people, its leaders say.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">There have been widespread fears that once the nation signs on to the WTO, drugs and medicines would become substantially more expensive since the generic drugs – affordable copies of branded and patented ones – which are sold in the country’s markets would no longer be allowed to be sold.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The WTO accession bill is to be debated in parliament shortly.</p>
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