Russia Plays Nice to Gain WTO Accession

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 2/22/2008 07:05:00 PM
This is interesting if somewhat predictable: Russia's general disdain for former Soviet republics cottoning up to the West has been set aside--for now at least--as it attempts to gain WTO accession. It needs to gain the assent of other WTO members if its long-delayed bid is to push through, and these include the Ukraine and Georgia, both of which have fallen afoul of Russia in recent times. From our second-favorite official news agency Tass (Xinhua is still tops) comes this report on the Ukraine and Russia playing nice. After (in)famously cutting gas supplies to the Ukraine in 2006, Russia is now contemplating the establishment of a free trade area with the Ukraine [aww, ain't that sweet?]:
Ukraine and Russia are going to establish a free trade zone on the basis of norms and procedures of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko said at the government’s meeting on Friday, commenting results of her February 20-21 visit to Moscow.

She ordered the Economics Ministry to prepare respective directives.

“Ukraine has become a WTO member, but we proposed Russia during the talks before its joining the WTO our beginning to create conditions in the trade relations of Ukraine and Russia that act in the WTO, Timoshenko said.

“We can do that, and this can be made one of our priorities. We should painstakingly work on the free trade zone between Ukraine and Russia that would begin working without wavers and restrictions. This is our goal, to which we must dedicate a certain part of our work,” Timoshenko said.

Meanwhile, Georgia and Russia also seem to be getting along better by tackling "technical" issues that pertain to trade instead of "political" ones (it's always the fault of politics):

The regular round of the Russian-Georgian bilateral consultations within the framework of the process of Russia’s admission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has passed constructively and successfully, head of the Russian delegation at the talks, chief of the trade talks department of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade Maxim Medvedkov told.

“The meeting with the Georgian delegation held with the participation of the WTO Secretariat that perform the functions of moderator, was effective, we considerably advanced in finding joint approaches to the settlement of questions our Georgian colleagues still have, in particular, on the activity of border checkpoints and control in the issue of trade between Russia and Georgia,” Medvevkov noted. “We agreed that our experts will work with the Georgian colleagues and corresponding ministries so that to coordinate the remaining separate questions,” the official added.

The next round of the consultations will be held in late March – early April also in Geneva. “We will look at the results, but I think that they will be positive,” according to Medvedkov. “So far our dialogue is developing rather constructively and within the framework of existing agreements we will be able to continue it successfully,” the Russian trade representative said.

He recalled that at the very beginning of the work with the Georgian colleagues the sides reached an agreement that “we sit at the table of trade talks on Russia’s admission to the WTO, that issues raised by the Georgian side are of technical nature and we should find just a technical solution.”

“We don’t want to raise at the WTO venue the political problems that exist or may emerge in relations between the two countries,” Medvedkov stressed.

The latter article also hints at the timetable Russia is looking at, with a goal for August 2008. Is it just me or did Ukranian membership spur Russian action on the matter of WTO accession?

Medvedkov said as well, “Russia has yet to coordinate five sections of the keynote report on the terms of accession to the WTO.” He also said informal multilateral consultations in Geneva on the section of the report “on intellectual property,” “technological regulation” and “phytosanitary measures” will enable Russia clearly to see the timeframe of the conclusion of the negotiating process of Russia’s accession to the WTO.

There is a technical possibility to conclude the negotiations on Russia’s accession to the WTO in August 2008, Medvedkov said on Wednesday.

Asked when Russia might join the WTO, Medvedkov said “different forecasts have been made” but “there is a technical possibility to conclude the negotiations in August.” “We are strongly determined to achieve a positive result and are interested in joining the organisation at the earliest opportunity,” Medvedkov said.

Meanwhile, Tass also reports that Russia's multilateral consultations back at Geneva are proceeding smoothly:

Consultations in a multilateral format on Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) progress successfully, claimed head of the Russian delegation and chief of the trade talks department of the Russian Ministry for Economic Development and Trade Maxim Medvedkov, speaking in an interview with Itar-Tass.

He noted that consultations with the European Union were held in Geneva over the past two days. “They were a follow-up of meetings that had been staged in Moscow last week between Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin as well as Minister for Economic Development and Trade Elvira Nabiullina and European trade commissioner Peter Mendelson.

“We specified some understandings that had been reached, and agreed an action plan for the near future so as to resolve remaining questions,” Medvedkov said.

He added that consultations were also held with chairman of the Working Group on Russia’s Accession to the WTO Stephan Johannesson of Iceland on some outstanding problems at the talks. “The main result was that WTO member countries agreed without a long discussion with Russia-brokered text of the report’s section on intellectual property, which is basically important, since that was one of the most difficult questions, and we worked on them with many delegations,” the head of the Russian delegation noted.

“The first multilateral discussion showed that many questions had been removed.” “This does not mean that the talks are over, but the first response is very encouraging: there are no serious remarks on the text proposed by us,” he continued.