Payback Time: Does US Use WTO to Kick Russia?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/17/2014 01:57:00 PM
In the absence of substantial US-Russia trade ties, the question American officials are asking themselves right about now is "How do we 'punish' Russia?" Sure the capital, foreign exchange and stock markets are naturally doing their part in hurting Russia, but how can the US throw its weight around directly? The UN is obviously out since Russia can veto everything from here till kingdom come as a permanent Security Council member.

I almost missed this relatively arcane one: WTO accession involves meeting so-called sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards (SPS). Basically, this involves meeting safety standards for trade in animals and plants--especially food. Yes, Russia finally joined the WTO at the end of 2011--some are now saying that was a mistake to let it in--but it has nonetheless been helping its allies get into the trade club. Witness Kazakhstan which is one of the few non-failed states still outside the organization. To get in, it needs guidance on SPS, for which it is counting on Russian assistance.

However, a recent Russian delegation headed for the United States regarding SPS was turned back. Being ever-so-conspiratorial, the Russians cite unease over Ukraine as the source of American pique:
Russia said on Monday that the United States abruptly withdrew an invitation for Russian veterinary officials to attend talks this week and accused Washington of "sabotage", an apparent sign of tension over Ukraine.
Russia's veterinary oversight agency, Rosselkhoznadzor, was informed less than 24 hours before its delegation was to depart for Washington that the visit was "unacceptable" for the United States, Rosselkhoznadzor said.
In a statement, it accused the United States of "sabotage of Russia's participation" in March 3-6 talks aimed at agreeing veterinary and phytosanitary measures in connection with Kazakhstan's bid to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Poor Kazakhstan being allied with Russia at this point in time. They can't kick Russia out of the WTO so easily, but they surely can make life difficult for its allies.