WTO Working Party Oks Russia's 18-year-old Bid

World | November 10, 2011, Thursday // 13:48|  views

Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), (L) gestures as he speaks with Dmitry Medvedev, Russia`s president, ahead of the first working session of the Group of 20 (G20) Cannes Summit 03 November 2011.

Russia’s accession to the WTO cleared a major hurdle when the WTO Working Party has approved the package spelling out Russia’s terms of entry to the organization.

The Working Party will now send its accession recommendation to the 15-17 December Ministerial Conference, where Ministers are expected to approve the documents and accept Russia as a WTO Member, the WTO announced in a communique.

On 10 November 2011, the Working Party on Russia’s accession, chaired by Ambassador Stef?n Johannesson (Iceland), agreed, ad referendum, on the terms of the country’s membership to the WTO by adopting the package containing reforms to Russia’s trade regime, and the commitments that Russia undertook to implement as part of its WTO accession.

“It has been a long journey, but today Russia has taken a big step towards its destination of membership in the WTO. In acceding to the WTO, Russia embraces a series of rules and commitments that are the foundation of an open, transparent and non-discriminatory global trading system. This system provides important guarantees for Russia and for the 153 other Members of our organization. This win-win result will bring Russia more firmly into the global economy and make it a more attractive place to do business. For the WTO, it comes as a most welcome deliverable for the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference and signals anew the relevance and vibrancy of the WTO as an instrument for international co-operation,” said WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy.

The breakthrough came after late on Wednesday the veto of the last WTO member objecting to Russia's accession, Georgia, was lifted.

Georgia and Russia signed a Swiss-brokered deal that removes the last big obstacle to Moscow joining the World Trade Organization after 18 years of negotiations.

Russia's accession will be the biggest step in world trade liberalization since China joined the WTO in 2000, sealing its integration into the world economy two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Entry also needs the approval of Russian parliament, which is likely before an election next March that is expected to return Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the presidency.

The 153-member WTO is an international organization set up to liberalize global trade and regulate trade and political relations between its members.

Russia has been 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.

Russia recently 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 resumed 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.

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.

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Tags: Russia, Georgia, Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister, WTO, World Trade Organization, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Geneva, Bern, trade, Pascal Lamy


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