Russia on the verge of WTO entry
Eighteen years after knocking on the WTO door for the first time and 16 years after starting meaningful talks with the World Trade Organization, Russia is about to receive the final okay for its entry to the global trade club. The approval is due to take place at a ministerial conference of the WTO next Friday. The final papers to clinch Russia’s WTO membership will be signed next summer.
Membership talks involved some 60 countries, the biggest team of this kind in the entire WTO history. For 9 years now, Mr Maxim Medvedkov has been the chief Russian negotiator with the WTO. He spoke for the Voice of Russia Friday:
"The talks sharply intensified in the year 2000. By 2006, the sides had ironed out all disagreements about access to export markets. The remaining disagreements included a serious stumbling block, created by unusual conditions set by several WTO members. They insisted that Russia make its energy resources an unbridled free-for-all and bring its domestic energy prices in line with the global rates. Russia was unable to accept this."
"Serious difficulties arose in 2007 and then in 2008, when Russia was forced to beat off Georgian aggression against South Ossetia. The political fallout of these events resulted in long delays."
Earlier this year, the Russian negotiators with the WTO managed to secure a long grace period for Russia’s automakers and to obtain a permission for Russia to join the WTO while remaining part of the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Mr Medvedkov again:
"Foreign trade regulation within the Union is supranational. Accordingly, it took quite some time to persuade the WTO that the treaties governing the Customs Union comply with the WTO rules. The problem was difficult, but it wasn’t the most difficult issue in the bargaining process."
The crunch came on November 18th, when Russia and Georgia signed an agreement about customs control on Russia’s borders with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. After a long bargaining saga, Russia is now set to become a full WTO member in 2012.
As for the benefits of Russia’s WTO membership, Mr Medvedkov believes they will include lower consumer prices and the opportunity to influence decision-making on global trade rules. His opinion is shared by many foreign experts, including those at the World Bank.