Sudan Says U.S. Backs Its WTO Bid as Sanctions Decision Due

  • African nation plans to apply for membership in December
  • Trump administration set to rule on embargo removal by July 12

The U.S. is backing Sudan’s bid to join the World Trade Organization, a Sudanese official said, days before Washington is due to decide whether to permanently lift some sanctions imposed on the African country two decades ago.

“Our team is very much satisfied with the support of the U.S. for Sudan going into the WTO,” Sudanese State Investment Minister Osama Faisal Elsayed Ali said in an interview. The North African nation has “done all our homework” and will apply for membership when the WTO’s top decision-making body meets in Buenos Aires in December, he said by phone from Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

President Barack Obama’s administration in January ordered the reversal of some of the economic sanctions the U.S. placed on Sudan in 1997, four years after listing it as a state sponsor of terrorism. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is due to report to President Donald Trump by July 12 on whether to make the cancellations permanent.

Sudan’s accession to the WTO will require commitments that “support a trade regime built on transparency, predictability, and the rule of law,” the State Department said in an emailed response to questions. “The WTO accession process is fundamentally a domestic reform process, and it is driven by substance, not artificial deadlines.” The department neither confirmed nor denied the U.S. is backing Sudan’s WTO bid.

Oil-producing Sudan sees a permanent removal of the sanctions as key to reviving the economy, which lost three quarters of its crude reserves with South Sudan’s secession in 2011. If that happens, Sudan will amend its current five-year economic plan and open the country to investments from the U.S. and other countries, boosting industries such as oil, mining and agriculture, according to Ali.

Click here to read how Sudan may benefit from removal of sanctions

“We need a transfer of technologies” from the U.S. to “add value” to the sugar, power, agriculture and livestock sectors, he said. “That will help us make a quick leap.”

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been in talks during the six-month review period with the director of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service, Mohammed Atta al-Mawla, about opening offices in Khartoum, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said in a phone interview. He cited “excellent” progress in the discussions, particularly on counter-terrorism.

“I think that cooperation can lead to opening up offices and directly basing,” Ghandour said on Sunday. “Of course, if we want to have cooperation on those issues, we need to pave the way by lifting whatever obstacles that may prevent that cooperation to go in the best possible way.”

Sudan first applied to join the WTO in 1994, but its efforts faced 13 years of “stagnancy,” its international cooperation minister, Osman Ahmed Fadul Wash, told WTO members in Geneva in January. A committee headed by Vice President Hassabo Mohamed Abdul-Rahman is supervising Sudan’s application for the December meeting, where Sudan will need to present a memo on all aspects of its trade and economic policies that have a bearing on WTO agreements.

Accession Support

Sudan will need the support of two-thirds of the WTO’s members to join. In January, Japan announced a $100,000 donation to support Sudan’s accession efforts, China re-affirmed its support, and other WTO members backed the resumption of Sudan’s negotiations.

Officials from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the U.S. Treasury Department financial intelligence and enforcement agency charged with planning and executing economic and trade sanctions, have visited Sudan on several occasions for discussions during the six-month review period, Ali said, without elaborating.

The agency currently prohibits unauthorized transactions involving depository institutions in areas of Sudan facing comprehensive sanctions as well as all transactions by U.S. persons relating to Sudan’s petroleum or petrochemical industries.

Sudan has about 1.5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, according to BP Plc statistics. Gold output was estimated at about 75 metric tons last year, according to the government.

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