By Saeed Jalili, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
Hope for Iran’s long-overdue accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) appears to have disappeared.
The July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed between Tehran and six world powers, has done little to bring about a consensus within the organization to proceed with Iran’s membership bid. Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the Iranian government has little to show in terms of practical action to realize its stated aim of liberalizing the economy.
The WTO’s consensus rules are such that a single opposing, influential member can be enough to reject a country’s accession bid. Iran first applied for membership in the important world body 21 years ago, but its repeated efforts to accede to the organization have long been stalled by the United States.
It was only in 2005 — when Washington decided to use its influence as an incentive for Iran to stay in its then-collapsing nuclear talks with European states — that the country’s accession bid made any progress, and the WTO accepted it as an observer member.
A similar opening was expected in the aftermath of the landmark nuclear deal that was signed in 2015. However, this opening was apparently closed with the election and coming into office of Donald Trump as president of the United States.
Iran has not hidden its deflated hopes of joining the world body. Last month, the country’s deputy minister of industry, mine and trade, Mojtaba Khosrotaj, said joining the WTO is no longer a priority for Tehran. This showed the Iranian government’s clear shift away from its optimistic tone in the aftermath of the signing of the nuclear deal.
Trump’s aggressive stances against Iran more broadly, and especially against the nuclear deal, are well-known. His posture is in line with some members of the US Congress, who wrote a letter last year to the US trade representative that lobbied against the Islamic Republic’s accession to the WTO. The legislators said Iranian WTO membership could remove Washington ‘s ability to impose further sanctions on the Iranian economy.