Thursday, July 28, 2016

Map: Liberia and Afghanistan Join WTO

(Subscribers click here to view this article in the members area.)

Map of World Trade Organization (WTO) member and observer countries, updated for August 2016 to include new members Liberia and Afghanistan (labeled). Color blind accessible.
Map by Evan Centanni, from public domain blank map.
Additional reporting by Caleb Centanni

Two New WTO Member Countries

This month two more countries are joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), a global body founded in 1995 to promote the management and expansion of international trade. Liberia officially became the WTO's 163rd member on July 14, and Afghanistan joins the list as member number 164 on July 29. The last new member to join the WTO was Kazakhstan in November of last year.

Joining the WTO requires a country to sign onto a set of free trade treaties managed by the organization, and to change its laws to follow the WTO's rules for free market trade. In return, each member country gets access to cheaper trade with all the other members, who aren't allowed to play favorites when deciding whose imports to tax or not tax.

Logo of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Organization Name:  
• World Trade Organization (English)
• Organisation mondiale du commerce (French)
• OrganizaciĆ³n Mundial del Comercio (Spanish)
Founded: 1994 in Marrakech, Morocco (commenced in 1995)
Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland
A diverse West African nation, Liberia declared independence in 1847, making it the oldest continuously independent country in Africa today. Liberia's admission to the WTO comes after almost 10 years of negotiation, getting official approval to join in December 2015 and submitting its ratified acceptance of membership on June 14 of this year.

Afghanistan, located along the ancient Silk Road on the border of South and Central Asia, is about the 40th largest country in the world by both area and population. Afghanistan was also approved for membership last December, and submitted its ratified membership acceptance on June 29, after 11 years of negotiations.

How Many Countries are in the WTO?

Of the 195 UN-recognized countries in the world, 160 (82%) are members of the WTO. Another four members are not UN-recognized nations: China's self-governed territories of Hong Kong and Macau, the European Union, and the disputed state of Taiwan - claimed by China - which participates under the name “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (Chinese Taipei)”.

There are also 20 WTO “observers”, down from 22 now that Liberia and Afghanistan have become full members. These countries are partially included in the organization, and have all applied for full membership (except the Holy See administration of tiny Vatican City, which doesn't plan to). There are only 15 UN-recognized countries that are neither members nor observers of the WTO.

Two countries, East Timor and Somalia, submitted membership applications last year, but don't yet have WTO observer status.

More: View all articles on new WTO member countries since 2011

WTO logo is displayed without permission, based on fair use principles (source).