Russia, with US Backing, Hopes to Enter WTO Next Year
Russia hopes to finalise its membership in the WTO before the end of 2010, and the US will support Moscow’s bid, senior officials from the two countries said after meeting in Washington this week.
Igor Shugalov, Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister, discussed Moscow’s bid with US Trade Representative Ron Kirk on Monday. Both men said the meeting went well. “My contacts with Kirk this morning let us think that we can achieve our accession, maybe next year, if we all work together,” Shuvalov said.
Kirk was slightly more cautious. “Ambassador Kirk welcomed the prospect of renewed engagement with Russia on its WTO accession negotiations following a period of uncertainty regarding Russia’s intentions,” the Office of the USTR said in a statement. “However he again noted that progress in these multilateral negotiations has always depended, and will still depend, on Russia’s dedication and work toward that end,” the statement said.
Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, caused a minor storm among trade observers when he announced in June that the country would abandon its unilateral bid to join the WTO and instead pursue membership as a customs union, jointly with former Soviet states Belarus and Kazakhstan (see Bridges Weekly, 10 June 2009, http://ictsd.net/i/news/bridgesweekly/48333/). Such an approach is unheard of in the organization’s nearly 15-year history.
Russia seems to be sticking by its customs-union approach, although Shugalov, when pressed by reporters, conceded that heads of state can always change their minds.
Russia, by far the largest economy outside the WTO, has been trying to negotiate its entry into the organisation for 16 years. The accession talks proceeded in fits and starts for more than a decade, and stalled in August 2008 when conflict broke out between Russia and Georgia. Angered by what it considered Russian aggression against a smaller neighbour, the US threatened to block Moscow’s bid to join the global trade body. Russia hit back, vowing to drop some of the commitments it had already made in the accession talks (see Bridges Weekly, 4 September 2008, http://ictsd.net/i/news/bridgesweekly/27680/). At the WTO, a consensus-based organisation, any single member can block another country’s accession.
But that controversy now seems like water under the bridge.
“We would like to finalise our accession,” Shuvalov said after the meeting with Kirk. “It’s not easy. We’ve doing this for 16 years.”
ICTSD reporting; “Russia has indication of 2010 WTO accession, Shuvalov says,” BLOOMBERG, 22 September 2009.
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