By Claire Doole in Geneva
May 9, 2001
The United States has vetoed Iran's application for membership of the World Trade Organisation.
The US has consistently objected to Iran joining the WTO since Tehran first asked for membership five years ago. The veto comes as no surprise - Washington claims that Iran is a terrorist nation and maintains trade sanctions against it.
However, Iran's application will be resubmitted at a meeting later in the year.
All decisions about whether to allow a country to start the WTO membership process have to be agreed by consensus. Without Washington's approval, Tehran could always be left out in the cold. But Iran's bid may not be so unrealistic.
This year, Tehran has gained a sponsor - Egypt, on behalf of a group of developing countries, has pushed for Iran's request to be considered, and while the request was rejected this time, it will be on the agenda of the WTO general council in July.
It is unclear whether the US will again use its power of veto. The US ambassador said Washington was reviewing its position.
Even if Iran did eventually join the trade body, the US would still not be obliged to trade with Tehran.
Whether Washington overcomes its long-held objections or not, it will be a long process before Iran becomes a full-fledged member. It has to amend its laws to comply with WTO regulations and negotiate bilateral agreements with its major trading partners.
China began the process 14 years ago and is still not a member of the global trading club.