Russia Clears Final Hurdle to WTO Membership

Following 18 years of negotiations, Russia will finally become a card-carrying member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) starting in December. The news came after Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina, and the rest of Russia’s WTO negotiating team agreed to the terms and conditions for the country’s accession.

The WTO is expected to approve the terms and formally invite Russia to join the economic collective at a ministerial conference in Geneva next month.

Membership in the WTO is expected to lower tariffs on exports to its newest member, while also improving foreign access to Russia’s services markets, and holding the country accountable to a system of trade rules.  “Russia’s membership in the WTO will generate more exports for American manufacturers and farmers, which in turn will support well-paying jobs in the United States,” said President Barack Obama, following the accession agreement.  “Russia is also opening its services market in sectors that are priorities to American companies, including audio-visual, telecommunications, financial services, computer and retail services.”

From day one of its membership, Russia will have to comply with WTO rules on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, along with rules governing legal transparency and general trade behavior.  “Upon Russia’s accession, the United States will be able to use WTO mechanisms, including dispute settlement, to challenge Russia’s actions that are inconsistent with WTO rules,” said Obama.

“This step marks a win for both the Russian people and the American people,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “It will spur trade and support significant job growth in both countries as a result of lower tariffs and increased market access. It also brings Russia into a rules-based system, increasing transparency and predictability to the benefit of all businesses in Russia and ensuring that the Russian government is held accountable to a system of international trading rules governed by the WTO.”

Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer

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