GENEVA, AP -Saudi Arabia was given a green light on Friday to join the World Trade Organization, in time to participate in December”s crucial ministerial summit in Hong Kong, the global commerce body said.
It took 12 years for Saudi Arabia, the world”s largest oil producer, to complete negotiations to join the WTO — the second-longest accession period after China, which negotiated for 14 years before becoming a member.
"We look forward to the kingdom”s participation in the Hong Kong ministerial meeting as an active member of this organization," WTO chief Pascal Lamy said.
Saudi Arabia”s accession still must receive final approval by the WTO”s governing general council — a formal step scheduled for November.
"Our road to accession has been long but finally rewarding," Saudi Trade and Industry Minister Hashim A. Yamani said.
Saudi Arabia said it made "far reaching, very substantial and commercially meaningful concessions and commitments on goods and services," Yamani said.
The country”s services industry was one of the main stumbling blocks to its membership. Several key WTO members, including the United States and the European Union, had expressed concern over the lack of access to the its banking, financing and insurance industries.
Some 40 countries are currently involved in talks to join the WTO, while others, such as Syria, still have a request pending to start accession negotiations.
In Hong Kong, the WTO”s 148 members are supposed to agree on an outline deal to boost the world”s economy by lowering trade barriers.