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Accession to the World Trade Organization: factors shaping the case of Saudi Arabia’s accession (1985-2005)

Ghulam, Faisal (2012) Accession to the World Trade Organization: factors shaping the case of Saudi Arabia’s accession (1985-2005). PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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It may be a case unique to the World Trade Organization(WTO) that an aspect of accession to the organization became an issue in itself. Since the WTO came into being in 1995, the process of accession has been a subject of intensive debate. It has been like this because of the extremely complicated nature of the process. The reason for such complexity is dual. On the one hand, an accession issue under consideration will be scrutinised in a manner that exceeds traditional trade concerns such as customs law, tariff schedule and related regulations on imports and exports to include items that might penetrate domestic legal and social boundaries. Such scrutiny, on the other hand, must satisfy all interested incumbent WTO members before accession is granted. This is normally done through an extensive and lengthy bilateral negotiation between the acceding country and the members with an interest in its application. Thus, the question of the WTO accession has become of attention grapping nature. In fact, following the establishment of the organization, the question of accession emerged as one of the various pressing WTO-related issues that attracted attention at both academic and practical levels. In this thesis, the WTO accession question will be examined with regard to the accession of Saudi Arabia. This was one of the most difficult and protracted accession processes and the thesis will concentrate on the factors that determined the WTO accession of this case. The literature on the WTO argues that the decision on any country’s accession is based on a set of generic factors. These include, for instance, integration in the world economy, locking in domestic reforms, opening new markets and attracting foreign investment. Although very important, the attempt to investigate the factors that shape a country’s desire to accede to the WTO– as examined in this study with respect to Saudi Arabia (seeking an accession in the face of the inherent complexities, liabilities and potential penetration of internal affairs) – requires answers that go further than these factors introduced in the literature. It is not the case that a country decides to join the WTO for particular reasons and the actual accession follows immediately. Accession is a process that takes a very long time and the issue of a country’s accession cannot possibly remain static throughout the time until its application is officially approved. This should be taken into account because it can produce some important questions. For example, will the internal perception and position of the parties involved remain the same during the period in which accession is being negotiated? Will the accession factors change over time to become more or less important? What are the politics involved? The answers to such questions will necessarily lead to a realisation that more elements than the aforementioned direct factors indicated in the literature need to be considered in order to understand WTO accession. However, examining questions of this nature, such as the politics involved in an accession case, would conceivably lead to some considerable particularities attached to a specific accession case and this applies to Saudi Arabia. The main question, then, that the study aims to answer is: what were the specific factors that shaped this accession case? In fact, the importance of the Saudi accession case is generally due to four factors: (a) the periods of varying intensity with respect to the negotiations themselves; (b) the protracted length of time taken to complete the accession process; (c) Saudi Arabia’s unique characteristics as a country; and (d) the fact that not much has been written about this accession process. Since the decision to join the WTO is intrinsically linked to trade policy, and as this normally involves a great deal of internal politics, the thesis supposes that studying the domestic interaction that was at play during the years of the accession process can best explain the accession of Saudi Arabia to the WTO. With regard to the importance of internal politics to the case, the thesis will focus on the domestic institutions and interests that the affected Saudi Arabia’s accession. In the process of doing this, external factors will also be taken into account.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Faisal Ghulam
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Woolcock, Stephen

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