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Russia-Georgia WTO Deal Close?

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, September 23
Russia’s membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the political priorities of the state were the main issues Georgia’s Vice Prime Minister, Giorgi Baramidze, talked about during his interview with CNN, on September 22. As the Georgian official underlined, the question of the Russian Federation's WTO membership is not connected with the de-occupation of Georgia.

“This is not a political question and we are not trying to connect it with the de-occupation of the Georgian territories. We have some interests, as EU countries have their interests. They want Russia to join the WTO," the minister said adding that nevertheless Russia is obliged to fulfil all the membership conditions of the organization. Russia has to give guaranties that trade relations between Georgia and Russia will be transparent. “We have our demands in this respect. It would be ideal if Georgian customs officers are allowed to the border checkpoints, but this seems unacceptable for Russian Federation at this stage," Baramidze said.

It also seems that the Georgian side will agree to international organizations monitoring the customs instead of Georgian ones. It is also a fact that the Georgian government avoids irritating its northern neighbor. “We do not want anyone to be against Russia or artificially irritate Russia, but it`s important to recognize objective facts, and so therefore we appreciate the recent resolution by the [US] Senate which was adopted unanimously recognizing the illegal occupation by the Russian Federation of 20% of Georgia`s territory, calling Russia to fulfil its obligations according to the ceasefire accord brokered by the European Union presidency,” Baramidze said.

Russia’s participation in the WTO has become one of the main topics of conversation recently. This is an issue that the Georgian opposition frequently blame on the authorities for inappropriately conducting negotiations. A member of the opposition party Our Georgia- Free Democrats, Viktor Dolidze hoped that the current Georgian authorities would not concede on the principal issues, “however, it is also obvious that the government of Georgia is ready to commit any action to prolong its being in power,” Dolidze told The Messenger, adding that almost all important issues are being discussed confidentially by the current leadership of the state, which makes it difficult to comment adequately on the issues. “We do not even know, what negotiations are being carried out by the government in this field, as transparency is a very uncommon feature for Georgian officials.” In general, Dolidze, also said that Russia’s participation in the WTO would be profitable for foreign countries and for Georgia as well.

Georgian analysts often have fixed views regarding this case. “The West pressed Georgia to express goodwill for Russia's WTO membership till the end of the year,” analyst Mamuka Areshidze, says. According to him it is most likely some agreement was concluded and serious pressure from the West occurred. “We in most cases cannot say exactly what happened. We can say that very strong pressure was put on Georgia for Russia's affiliation. However, Russia as well was pressed by the West to make some concessions. We are not aware yet what compromises Russia will make. But the fact is that Russia did make some, as the Georgian government representatives expressed their content in this respect.” He also supposed that sooner or later Russia will become a member of the WTO.