June 3, 2005


Iran on rough road to WTO membership: Islamic Republic faces potentially turbulent period of crucial economic reform (Agence France Presse, 6/03/05)

[G]iven the challenges of adapting a heavily protected economy - of which an estimated two-thirds is under state control - Iranian officials acknowledge the WTO negotiation process will be a long one.

"We can and should give time to those sectors of industry or the economy that will need a few years to adjust to the WTO obligations," said Esfandiar Omidbakhsh, an Iranian Commerce Ministry official charged with the WTO issue.

"Tariffs and nontariff barriers will undoubtedly have to be decreased, and it will take three or four years to start the negotiations on WTO member access to Iran's goods and services market," he told AFP.

"We cannot look at our current economic situation as a basis for joining the WTO. We should consider what our situation could be in a 10-year period." Omidbakhsh asserted that "the WTO will not be a hell for us, contrary to what some people believe.

"It is a development opportunity, it waves an encouraging signal to foreign investors. The WTO is an obligation for us, whether we want it or not. It is inevitable." Economic change is a campaign pledge of presidential frontrunner Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, but the problem is that not everyone in the Islamic Republic agrees.

A major barrier to WTO membership, and the element of liberalization that it entails, are the powerful hardliners who have blurred the boundaries between mercantilism and politics.

To the hard-line camp, WTO membership and giving in to the forces of globalization that are beyond their control are two sides of the coin.

Got that right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 3, 2005 6:34 PM
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