Afghanistan gets clearance to join WTO

GENEVA, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Afghanistan agreed terms to join the World Trade Organization with the trade body's existing 161 members on Wednesday, 11 years after it first applied for membership, the WTO said in a statement.

Trade ministers will officially approve the terms of Afghanistan's accession to the global trade club at a meeting in Nairobi next month, and it will become a member 30 days after it ratifies the deal, which it will need to do by June 30, 2016.

"Our country's accession to the WTO will serve as a catalyst for domestic reforms and transformation to an effective and functioning market economy that attracts investment, creates jobs and improves the welfare of the people of Afghanistan," the WTO statement quoted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as saying.

Reviving the economy is just one of the challenges facing Ghani's unwieldy national unity government, which has come under growing pressure because of deteriorating security.

On Wednesday he appealed for calm as one of the biggest demonstrations in years marched through Kabul, demanding action after the beheadings of seven members of the ethnic Hazara minority.

The WTO is set to expand from 161 to 164 members, with Kazakhstan set to become the 162nd on Nov. 30, and Liberia having recently agreed its membership terms.

Liberia and Afghanistan both negotiated their WTO entry after a special deal introduced in 2011 to help least developed countries join the Geneva-based world body. Six other countries are eligible for the same deal and are negotiating to join, including Sudan, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea.

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