Russia Can Do without WTO, Medvedev Says before Talks with Georgia

World | October 19, 2011, Wednesday // 18:43|  views

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, number one in United Russia party candidate list talks during a meeting with his supporters in his Gorki Residence outside Moscow, Russia, 19 October 2011. EPA/BGNES

Russia "will survive" even it does not gain membership at the World Trade Organization, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared amidst continuing uncertainty about his country's WTO application.

"If we are told that we are not fit for it for some reason, we can live without it. This is absolutely true and I am absolutely sincere," Medvedev said Wednesday, as cited by RIA Novosti.

"Everybody, and our partners in the WTO accession process should understand that our joining is not only in Russia's interests. It is in the interests of various businesses, foreign businesses ... for reasonable regulation of international trade flows. It is a two-way street," Medvedev said a day before Russia, and Georgia, a WTO member, resume their talks on the former's membership. Georgia's position remains probably the last major hurdle for its realization.

The 150-member WTO is an international organization set up to liberalize global trade and regulate trade and political relations between its members.

Russia remains the only major global economy to be excluded from the WTO; it has been seeking membership at the world trade bloc for 18 years but disputes with other states that are already members have stalled its accession.

In the fall of 2010, both the USA and the EU withdrew their objections to Russia's WTO accession after extensive talks and the settlement of disputes. At the same time, however, Georgia, a WTO member with whom Russia fought a brief war in August 2008 over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, continues to be opposed to its accession to the global trade bloc.

RIA Novosti reminds that Russia signed a free trade agreement on Tuesday with most of the countries of the CIS, the successor group of former Soviet states. Earlier this year, Russia set up a customs zone with Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Russia had hoped to conclude WTO accession talks by the end of this year, but obstacles remain over Russian insistence on support for the agricultural sector and car production.

Russia and Georgia will resume talks October 20 to forge a deal that would let Moscow join the World Trade Organization, an outcome that the US and Europe would like to see before the end of the year.

The dispute with Georgia is one of the last major hurdles in the way of Russia's 17-year bid to join the global trade body, but the Swiss-mediated discussions broke down last week.

On Friday, the Interfax news agency quoted a top Russian trade negotiator official as saying Moscow was nearing completion of the process of joining. But the Georgian side says that optimism is at best premature.

"There are no signs of progress whatsoever," said Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergi Kapanadze, who leads the team of Georgian negations. He said that Moscow and Tbilisi remain at odds on what Russia can give in exchange for Georgia's consent for letting Russia in the WTO.

As a WTO member, Georgia can block Moscow's bid to join. Tbilisi has offered to trade its consent for Moscow's allowing international monitoring of border crossings in the Russian-occupied break-away regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia argues that is not an issue for the WTO talks.

Moscow has tried to make lifting a six-year-long ban on Georgian imports the main subject of negotiations with Tbilisi, but Georgian officials say those restrictions would end automatically if Russia joined the trade bloc.

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Tags: Russia, Georgia, Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister, WTO, World Trade Organization, Abkhazia, South Ossetia


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