WTO Members Formally Approve Russia’s Terms For Membership
By Daniel Pruzin and Eric J. Lyman
GENEVA—Members of the World Trade Organization Dec. 16 formally approved Russia’s terms for membership in the WTO, bringing down the curtain on marathon negotiations that were initiated back in June 1993.
The accession agreement was approved by trade ministers at a three-day meeting of the WTO’s ministerial conference in Geneva. Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga, chairman of the ministerial conference, gaveled approval of the Russian accession agreement to the applause of the organization’s 153 members.
Russia will take its seat at the WTO 30 days after notifying the organization that the Russian Duma, the country’s parliament, has ratified the membership terms.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said that the accession agreement may not be submitted to the Duma until May, meaning that Russia might not become a full-fledged WTO member until the middle of 2012.
Some See Delay Until After Election
Some Geneva-based officials privately suggested that the Russian government was postponing ratification until after presidential elections in March in order not to make WTO accession an issue in Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s campaign to secure re-election as president. Putin’s popularity has been declining since Duma elections Dec. 4 which were marred by allegations of fraud benefitting his party.
“We need to be prepared and speak with different industries,” Shuvalov said. “When we understand everything that has to be done by the Russian government, maybe we’ll need to change a few federal laws. Along with the protocol, we need to submit to the Duma all appropriate legislation in order to vote for the whole package.”
Part of the legislative package, he said, will be measures to help Russian firms that may be adversely affected by WTO accession.
“I think the latest will be May” to submit the package, Shuvalov added. “It will be after the elections, but it does not relate to the elections at all, because we need some time. We want the process to be supported by the people.”
Russian Minister of Trade and Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina said the decision on Russian’s accession “is an event we’ve been waiting for a long time, both in Russia and the world community at large.”
Nabiullina noted that with Russia in the WTO, the organization’s members “will get access to a market of 165 million people already operating on the basis of common rules.”
On the Russian side, she said that “Russia today is losing $2 billion because of discriminatory measures against our exports,” and now hoped these measures would be removed as a result of the accession deal…