Khodorkovsky, Rule of Law & Russia Joining WTO

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 1/04/2011 03:33:00 PM
This is yet another entry in the long-running saga of Russian WTO accession [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. I think you know how this story goes: the seemingly arbitrary (re-)incarceration of Vladimir Putin's political foe and onetime oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky bodes ill for Russia's attempts to join the WTO for obvious reasons. To Western eyes, the lack of stability and transparency in Russia are definite no-nos whose implications spill over into the trade realm. That is, how can the whims of a handful be the basis for its membership in a rule-based organization?

First we have a US trade official commenting on how this has set back Russia's chances (as if it were making significant strides, but I digress):
The sentencing handed down to former Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky will complicate Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization, a senior Obama administration official said on Thursday.

"It is not going to help their cause, it is only going to complicate their cause," the official said. "The WTO is a rules based, rule of law organization. Most countries around the world do not look at this verdict as a demonstration of the deepening of the rule of law in Russia. It will definitely have an effect on Russia's reputation," the official added.
Ah, but don't worry, says Vladimir Putin. He sees 2011 as the year it finally happens. In fact, he's rather less worried about governance than he is about keeping automobile tariffs intact:
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia can be expected to enter the World Trade Organization in 2011, but "questions still remain," Interfax reported.

Putin also said Moscow could use "the so-called technical regulations," used by the members of WTO, to protect its auto industry after entering the organization. "If we see that the auto industry gets into unequal conditions of competition, we will find the methods of protection," Putin said.
Putin makes it sound as if Russia would be doing the WTO a favour instead of the other way around IMHO.