Holy Guacamole, Russia Finally Joins WTO Today!

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 12/16/2011 05:42:00 AM
Yikes, it's finally happening: While the WTO ministerial meetings will almost certainly result in nothing substantial, Russia's road to WTO accession is finally over. As you've gathered through my posts over the years, it's been a long, circuitous process [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. In latter times, the requirement that all WTO members assent to Russian membership has been delayed by Georgia naturally feeling aggrieved over border quarrels with Russia over breakaway provinces Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Think of being unfree to conduct trade with parts of your own country due to another's interference and you can begin to appreciate Georgia's apprehension.

Yet all things must come to pass. Tonight, a night to end all nights in the history of trade negotiations, Russia joins the WTO:
Russia is finally set to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Friday at a ceremony in Switzerland, after 18 years negotiating its membership. The Swiss brokered a deal between Russia and Georgia earlier this year that removed the last obstacle to Russia's accession. Georgia had tried to block Russia's WTO entry since the two countries fought a short war in 2008. Russia is by far the biggest economy yet to join the global trade body...

The deal with Georgia hinged on international monitoring of trade along the mutual borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The two provinces have broken away from Georgia and are recognised as independent states by Russia. The formal signing ceremony has been added onto the end of a summit on Thursday between President Dmitry Medvedev and European Union officials in Brussels.
For the record, only Algeria's accession process outdoes Russia's in terms of being drawn out:
Russia’s 18-year path to the WTO was almost record-slow, with only Algeria’s negotiations taking longer at the moment. It was also the world’s largest non-member economy. The hurdle was caused by the principle of consensus the organization uses, which means each member can veto its enlargement.
So I suppose congratulations are obligatory all around to Russia, Georgia, Switzerland (brokers of the trade peace deal) and the WTO. The world's 12th largest trading nation will shortly be on board the multilateral institution that claims in its name to concern itself with world trade. May trade help bring peace on Earth and better shopping opportunities to all mankind. This is the Christmas season, after all.