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Will Russia enter the WTO?

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, October 12
Russia has been trying to enter the World Trade Organisation since the end of the last century. Currently, following the policy reset between the USA and Russia the issue has been reactivated with more vigour as Russia is desperate to enter the organisation. However, according to WTO rules any member can veto the application of a prospective member. Now, while the USA wants Russia to be granted WTO membership, Georgia is still against it and declares its position openly. Even before the Russian aggression of August 2008 Georgia demanded the establishment of a customs checkpoint on Russian - Georgian official border, although these territories in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region were controlled by Russian supported separatists. In addition Georgia requested that Moscow lift the embargo on the import of Georgian wines and mineral waters and other commodities. So the question remains, will Georgia still exercise its veto on Russian entry to the WTO or will it surrender under American pressure?

The Kremlin is optimistic, it is sure that the obstacle is overcome. Russian finance minister, Alexey Kudrin stated that the final procedures will start in 2-4 months and accordingly Russia will enter the WTO in about ten months time.

President Obama stated that Russia should become a WTO member as it is advantageous for Russia, for the US and for everybody. The reasoning behind the US position is that WTO membership will force Russia to follow democratic rules of conduct. Deputy Secretary of State Gordon Brown also thinks that Russia’s entry to the WTO will force it to follow the democratic rules of the game which will be positive for Russia. The thinking behind this is that Russia will be obliged to follow international law and therefore retreat from the occupied territories of Georgia. He also highlighted that Georgia, as a full WTO member will be able to solve the economic issues it has with Moscow, including the Moscow embargo on Georgian wine, mineral water and other agricultural products.

The US position has created confusion in the Georgian official establishment. On a recent visit to the US, Georgian Prime Minister, Nika Gilauri confirmed once again Georgia’s decision to block Russian entry, with a precondition for Georgia not using its veto being the customs checkpoint issue. Gilauri stated that Georgia welcomes Russia’s participation in all organisations which will eventually make the country more civilised. According to him the WTO charter stipulates the transparency of borders of member countries. Unfortunately currently there exist two customs checkpoints between two countries which do not comply with the WTO. Associated Press thinks Georgia’s stubborn policy will put Washington in an awkward position, because the US is keen for Moscow to be granted WTO membership.

Meanwhile in Russia they are completely certain that the country will enter the WTO even without Georgia’s consent. There are some legal tricks which Russia wants to play and thus enter the organistaion without Georgia’s endorsement. For now therefore it remains uncertain what will eventually transpire from this controversy. Will Russia become a WTO member with Georgia’s consent, as a result of pressure exerted on a small country by its powerful friends or will Georgia’s position simply be ignored in the labyrinths of legislative tricks.