- After years of negotiations to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Cape Verde's government is optimistic that the island nation should be ready within the year. Cape Verde is one of very few African nations still outside the world body as the WTO's accession demands get tougher and tougher, complicating negotiations.
Speaking to the Praia parliament during a debate on industrial property, Cape Verde's Economy and Growth Minister José Brito said that there finally had been progress in the negotiations with he WTO. He was now hopeful that the country could join the organisation before the end of this year.
However, this is not the first time the Praia government is optimistic about a quick accession to the world body regulating international trade. In December 2004, after having participated in the second round of accession negotiations in Geneva, Minister Brito's predecessor, João Pereira Silva, told Cape Verdeans he was sure the country would join WTO "by November 2005."
Also WTO negotiators have been very optimistic about reaching a deal with Cape Verde, which after all is one of Africa's most advanced and liberal economies. The body's chief negotiator, David Shark, in mid-2005 praised Minister Silva's efforts "to accelerate its accession process," introducing new legislation and reforms as demanded by the WTO. Mr Shark at that time did not see any major obstacles for Cape Verde's accession.
Almost two years after, the situation has not changed very much. As time goes by, the list of WTO demands for new potential members however grows larger and larger, and Cape Verde thus still remains "almost ready" to join the body. Both parties, as always, are optimistic about an accelerated accession process.
Minister Brito, while keeping up spirits, nevertheless has learnt that new obstacles may turn up from nowhere at any time, complicating the process. "We have already had several rounds of negotiations and each time we respond to a set of questions, more complex ones are posed," he told parliamentarians in Praia, noting that "things are not always dependent on Cape Verde."
The latest issue to prevent a quick accession has to do with industrial and intellectual property rights, according to reports by Cape Verde's independent 'A Semana' newspaper. Based on this obstacle, Minister Brito is now asking lawmakers to accept new legislation on intellectual property that fulfils the WTO's newest demands.
If the Praia parliament worked effectively and quickly on this reform, Minister Brito hopes his government may - again - accelerate negotiations with the WTO, reaching a deal before new and complex demands are made. It is a race against time, Mr Brito has learned.
The Cape Verdean government now bitterly regrets that the island nation was not among the large group of nations being founding members of the WTO in 1995. The body now has 150 member states, and the largest group of countries entered in 1995 and 1996, when it was still easy.
Also most African countries entered the body in these two first years. Ironically, Cape Verde is one of Africa's most well-working economies and probably the country on the continent most complying with the WTO's complex demands, but nevertheless will be one the last countries to join. By now, only eight African countries remain on the WTO's waiting list for accession.
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