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Serbia was still part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) when that country applied for accession to the WTO in 2001. FRY was the last of the former republics of Yugoslavia to do so.
In 2003, the FRY became the country of Serbia and Montenegro, with the understanding that the two republics would pursue harmonized economic policies and therefore continue accession to the WTO as a single entity.
By 2005, however, it became clear that while the Union State of Serbia and Montenegro might be considered a single country, its two constituent territories were operating as separate economic units. They petitioned jointly to split the accession process and to negotiate their WTO Membership as separate customs territories.
The General Council established a Working Party to examine Serbia’s WTO accession application in February 2005. Serbia’s Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime was circulated in March 2005, and its first Working Party meeting was held in October 2005. Serbia’s most recent Working Party meeting – its twelfth – was held in March 2012. The WP review of Serbia’s trade regime is nearing completion, based on comprehensive comments and drafting suggestions submitted by the United States and other WTO Members after the March WP meeting. Serbia’s bilateral negotiations for market access commitments also are well advanced, and Serbia would like to complete its accession process during 2013. However, it is critical for Serbia to address the remaining issues with the enactment of necessary legislation to bring its trade regime into line with WTO rules. This must include modification of Serbia’s highly problematic law banning trade in any products containing genetically modified organisms.
The United States has actively participated in Serbia’s Working Party meetings, and has engaged in bilateral consultations with the Government of Serbia on the margins of WTO meetings in Geneva. Earlier in Serbia’s accession negotiations, the United States provided technical assistance in the form of an advisor resident in Belgrade, drafting documentation, training, legal drafting, and institution building in the areas of customs procedures, import and activity licensing, intellectual property rights protection, standards and sanitary measures. This program concluded in March of 2009.