Kazakhstan's Rough Road to WTO Accession

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The Secretary-General of the World Trade Organization, Supachai Panitchpakdi, made a landmark visit to Kazakhstan on August 25. Panitchpakdi hailed Kazakhstan's efforts to join the WTO and positively evaluated the reforms carried out by the government, particularly in updating its foreign trade rules in accordance with the principles of the WTO. Statistics report that the export volume in the first half of the current year, increased by 40% over the corresponding period of last year. Over the same period, imports of goods and materials rose by 56%. But talks with the WTO chief revealed a number of hurdles blocking Kazakhstan's entrance into the WTO, particularly agricultural reform (Kazakhstanskaya pravda, August 27).

Over the last decade the government has taken steps to increase agricultural efficiency through land privatization and financial support for farmers. But these half-hearted measures have failed to produce radical changes. Most small farmers and individual households cannot secure bank credits due to high interest rates. Without credit, it is difficult to increase production. Speaking one month ago in Petropavlovsk, North Kazakhstan, an expert from Kazakhstan's Ministry of Agriculture, Akzhol Abdukalimov, noted that the country lags at least three years behind Russia in terms of processing its agricultural yield. He added that only 19 of Kazakhstan's more than 600 agricultural processing enterprises were planning to introduce ISO international quality standards. Inefficient processing facilities and high production costs are among the main factors that make Kazakh agricultural produce uncompetitive even in domestic markets. Abdukalimov admitted that Kazakhstan still imports 88% of its condensed milk, 70% of its cooking oil, and 30% of its sausages. Last year only 16% of the meat and 13% of the milk produced in Kazakhstan were processed.

The poor state of agricultural production minimizes the overall effect of the much-trumpeted positive...
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