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WTO issues on bilateral level

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, March 9
This week in Bern, Switzerland, Georgia and Russia will begin negotiations on Russia’s entry to the World Trade Organization ( WTO). The negotiations could be crucial for the relations between the two countries. Analysts suggest that the talks could be Georgia’s last chance to fully protect its interests. It is obvious that if Russia becomes a member of the WTO it will have no need whatsoever to sit at the negotiations table with Georgia. Recently the Georgian ruling administration has pointed out that it supports Moscow’s aspiration to join the organisation, however Tbilisi has one condition. This is facilitating the transparency of customs checkpoints at the Georgian – Russian legal border currently under the control of Russia and its puppet regimes of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. To date, even before the August 2008 war and occupation of Georgian territories, the Kremlin has ignored Georgia’s position, however today it seems it is ready to negotiate some terms with Tbilisi.

The US has stated officially that it is not going to interfere in the bilateral relations between Moscow and Tbilisi. However one can imagine that Washington has probably advised both sides to use common sense and reach a consensus.

The Georgian authorities are not giving any details of the upcoming negotiations but it is likely that some of the previous positions will be reconsidered. To what extent Tbilisi is prepared to make concessions will become clear after the negotiations are over, but the Georgian opposition is already prepared to label any type of concessions by Georgia as another defeat and recognition of the results of occupation. At the moment it is not clear what Tbilisi will demand from Moscow in exchange for not vetoing Russia’s membership of the WTO.

Analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili thinks that Georgia should demand the withdrawal of the Russian occupying forces from the territory. However an argument against this is that it is a political issue in WTO interests. Leader of the Free Democrats Irakli Alasania believes starting dialogue with Russia is a positive move and proposes two major conditions – one is for Georgian products to be allowed back onto the Russian market (one of the major principles for WTO members) and the second is behaving in compliance with the WTO charter which stipulates observing regular customs rules among member countries.

Some analysts believe that before starting dialogue with Moscow the Georgian leadership should have researched the public opinion in Georgia. The authorities have taken complete responsibility for the outcome of these negotiations and the Georgian public, as well as various political forces do not feel involved.

It is unlikely that the negotiations will last for long as presumably the results should be clear this spring, at least this is what the Russian leadership is openly declaring.