US Senators Call for Consideration of Georgian Interests over Russia WTO Accession
By Messenger Staff
Friday, October 21Just ahead of the Swiss-mediated talks on October 20 between Georgia and Russia on Moscow's WTO entry terms, two US Senators Roy Blunt and James Inhofe sent an official letter to Hilary Clinton United States Secretary of State where the senators appealed to the Obama administration to fully consider the interests of Georgia before endorsing Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“We are concerned about the reports that the United States may endorse Russian membership in the World Trade Organization in spite of larger strategic challenges in the US-Russia relationship,” the senators' statement reads. In particular, we are concerned that the Republic of Georgia, a strong security partner of the United States’ which has made considerable progress in its post-communist efforts to implement democratic and market reforms, has not yet endorsed Russian membership in the WTO due to the ongoing presence of Russian troops inside its international boundaries. As you are well aware, the United States continues to oppose the presence of Russian troops in the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which were invaded by Russia in August 2008,” it says.
In their letter the two senators highlight that each WTO member state should accept certain norms, rules, institutions, and dispute settlement processes, in addition, responsible nations monitor the goods that flow in and out of their borders, collect duties and tariffs, and ensure that illegal or dangerous materials are interdicted so “it should not come as any surprise that Georgian leaders are insisting on maintaining at least some semblance of territorial integrity through the customs process. Without such recognition, agreeing to Russian WTO accession could be considered tantamount to international ratification of a new border arrangement imposed by Russia through force of arms. We fail to see how this outcome could possibly be in the United States’ national interest,” the senators write.
“The Georgian government has publicly stated that it cannot agree to any WTO accession by Russia that falls short of human (as opposed to exclusively electronic) monitors on Georgia’s internationally-recognized borders,” the statement reads adding emphasized that Georgia has conceded that these officials can be international, rather than Georgian, customs officials. Thus far Russia has refused this offer.
The senators also state that as a current member of the WTO, a consensus-based international organization, Georgia has the right to veto Russian membership, but added that it would be both unfair to Georgia as a security partner and set a very damaging precedent if the United States forced Georgia alone to veto Russian accession or pressured Georgia into agreeing to terms that Georgia finds unacceptable. “We are also concerned that any deal ultimately agreed upon between Russia and Georgia over its customs relationship contains enforceable penalties should either side violate the agreement. Since a deal between these nations is being negotiated as a side deal and has no enforcement provisions under the WTO itself, the United States cannot be party to any outcome which allows Russia to break its commitment after accession is completed,” the statement reads.