"Today is a historic day for Lithuania, which after a complex, intense, and often difficult work, completed membership negotiations with the World Trade Organization," Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus told the WTO Chairman Mike Moore in an official speech.
He said that Lithuania had not been a member of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, the WTO's predecessor owing to the legacies of history.
"Therefore accession to the World Trade Organization is one of the crucial steps toward my country's full reintegration into the world economy. Just like European and Euro-Atlantic membership is vital to my country's security and well being," Adamkus said.
Adamkus also stressed that WTO membership is essential for Lithuania because of the country's dependence on foreign trade, which accounts for 80 percent of its gross domestic product and that it will also mean greater transparency in transactions leading to better guarantees for foreign investors.
The president also referred to the violent Seattle protests that took place a year ago. "Lithuania is finalizing its accession in the post-Seattle period. We understand that this is far from an easy period for the organization. Worldwide integration of economies raises more and more concerns. We sometimes hear that globalization is to be blamed for contemporary evils, such as poverty, unemployment, and environmental degradation," said Adamkus.
He added that open societies and liberal economies have always played a role in generating employment, creating wealth and improving social conditions.
At the signing ceremony Chairman Mike Moore said, "Lithuania's forthcoming accession is good news for the country and good news for the WTO. Lithuania now has a stable and predictable framework for economic engagement with other nations which will boost trade, growth and prosperity. For the WTO it means another big step in our goal of becoming a truly world organization."
Moore highlighted that Lithuania completes the list of the three Baltic states to become members of the WTO. Latvia and Estonia became members in 1999.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only international organization dealing with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.
Lithuania's main trading partner is Germany, which accounts for 16 percent of its exports and 18 percent of its imports, followed by the Russian Federation which accounts for 19.4 percent and 7 percent, respectively. In 1999 Lithuania's exports totaled $3.004 billion and its imports $4.835 billion.