The Office of the United States Trade Representative

U.S. and Saudi Arabia Conclude Bilateral WTO Accession Agreement


WASHINGTON – U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman today announced that the United States and Saudi Arabia have concluded bilateral negotiations on issues related to Saudi Arabia's World Trade Organization (WTO) accession.  The bilateral agreement provides new market access opportunities for U.S. providers of agriculture, goods and services and sets the stage for Saudi Arabia to complete accession negotiations with WTO Members.  To complete its accession bid, work will resume in Geneva to complete required multilateral negotiations.

"This represents progress for Saudi Arabia, the United States and the WTO," said U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman. "As a result of negotiations on its accession to the WTO, we will see greater openness, further development of the rule of law, and political and economic reform in Saudi Arabia.   We have also increased our cooperation on bilateral and multilateral issues.

“The United States has been working with Saudi Arabia for over a decade on its Membership bid.  The negotiations have been tough given the complexity of the issues.  Trade Minister Yamani and his team have worked hard to pursue real economic reforms that will contribute to peace and stability in the region.

“In my consultations with Congress, Members expressed their interest in ensuring that Saudi Arabia implements these important changes.  We will be working with Saudi Arabia and our partners to ensure full compliance with WTO rules.  Over the course of the negotiations, the Administration has consulted closely with the Congress about America’s concerns and interests, most particularly Members and Staff of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.”   

Saudi Arabia has confirmed that it will not invoke the non-application provision of the WTO Agreement and thus will have WTO relations with all WTO Members.  Saudi Arabia has also confirmed that it will not apply the secondary and tertiary aspects of the Arab Boycott of Israel. 

Saudi Arabia has taken important steps to reform its trade regime, revising legislation, most notably in the areas of intellectual property protection, import licensing, customs valuation and fees, and standards and technical regulations.  In terms of specific market opening commitments, Saudi Arabia has agreed to revise its sanitary and phytosanitary measures applied to agricultural imports, including shelf-life restrictions and other non-tariff measures that have long hindered U.S. agricultural exports.  Onerous non-tariff measures and inspection requirements have been lifted, and replaced with a WTO-compatible system of inspection for health and safety reasons.  Tariff commitments include duty free entry of aircraft and information technology products and harmonization of tariffs on chemical imports at very low or zero rates of duty.   U.S. service providers will benefit in particular from new commitments in the distribution, insurance, banking, and telecommunications sectors, among others. 


Saudi Arabia has been negotiating its terms of accession to the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT), and then to the WTO, since 1993. The United States is the last WTO Member to formally conclude a bilateral market access agreement with Saudi Arabia.  This agreement and those concluded with other WTO members in the course of the negotiation will be consolidated.  The Report of the Working Party and Protocol of Accession will become part of Saudi Arabia’s overall package containing the terms of its accession to the WTO.  This package must be formally approved by WTO Members and then accepted by the Government of Saudi Arabia.  Thirty days after the WTO receives its notice of acceptance, Saudi Arabia will become a member of the WTO.  No Congressional action is required on the accession since Saudi Arabia already receives Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) from the United States.