Afghanistan joined the World Trade Organization on Friday, becoming its 164th member, after nearly 12 years of negotiating its accession terms.

Afghanistan becomes the ninth Least Developed Country to accede to the WTO since the organization’s establishment in 1995.

“I am proud to welcome Afghanistan to the WTO as our newest member,” said director-general Roberto Azevêdo. “This is a historic day for the country and its integration into the global economy. We arrived at this point thanks to the commitment of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the government of Afghanistan.”

“I congratulate them on this achievement, particularly given the very challenging circumstances,” Azevêdo added. “WTO membership will be a foundation stone in the country’s future development. I also want to commend all WTO members for their support in this process, and their commitment to helping LDCs to participate in the multilateral trading system.”

Habibullah Asad Zmaray, adviser to Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industry Mozammil Shinwari, said, “Afghanistan takes its WTO membership very seriously. As a new member, Afghanistan will play a constructive role in advancing the goals of the multilateral trading system. Trade helps to generate economic growth and will be key in helping the international community achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. With our WTO membership, we have made a major leap forward in ensuring that trade helps us to achieve shared prosperity, economic growth and poverty reduction in Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan also formally accepted the WTO’s new Trade Facilitation Agreement, becoming the 90th WTO member to do so. Afghanistan will benefit from special flexibilities in the TFA allowing developing countries and LDCs to determine when they will implement individual provisions of the Agreement and to identify provisions that they will only be able to implement upon the receipt of technical assistance and support for capacity building.

The TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO membership, or 110 countries, formally accept the agreement. Earlier in the week, Peru and Saudi Arabia ratified TFA.

Concluded at the WTO’s 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference, the TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues, and contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.