Nepal will join the World Trade Organization April 23, making it the 147th member of the body that sets rules on international trade.
The WTO said that the Nepalese government has formally ratified the membership agreement. It will be the first least-developed country to join the organization since it was founded in 1995, though a number of the world’s poorest countries are founder members.
Some 40% of Nepal’s 23 million people live on less than $1 a day. Its major source of income and employment is agriculture.
In 2002, Nepal exported goods worth $645 million and imported $1.4 billion. India is its most important trading partner.
Nepal first applied to join the WTO’s predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, in 1989. Membership takes a long time because countries have to negotiate individual agreements with other WTO members as well as changing laws and customs procedures to come into line with WTO rules.
Nepal’s membership was approved by trade ministers from WTO countries during their gathering in Cancun, Mexico, last September, but only becomes official a month after it is ratified by the government.
Cambodia, which was approved at the same time, has been granted more time to ratify the agreement. (Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)