Russia officially joined the World Trade Organization today (22 August), ending a 19-year wait to become part of the global club.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, in announcing Russia’s accession as the 156th member, said it “is especially important as the world goes through troubled times and continues to suffer from one of the worst global economic crisis in memory. Joining the WTO is a sign of confidence in the organization and in what it can deliver for its members”.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso welcomed the announcement, saying that Russia is the EU's third largest trading partner and a very important market for EU exporters and investors. Russia's WTO accession would bring a qualitative change to the current trade regime, Barroso said.
The Russian Economic Development Ministry said WTO membership would lower prices for both imported and domestically-produced goods. The World Bank calculates Russia's membership will boost GDP by 3.3% annually for the first three years, with that figure likely to increase later.
Critics of Russian membership
Internal critics have claimed Russia’s WTO accession is detrimental to the country’s sovereignty and security, and could ruin entire sectors of the domestic economy such as agriculture and the motor industry, RIA Novosti reported.
But a London business group welcomed Russia’s accession, saying the move would help turn Moscow into an international financial centre and liberalise trade.
“As part of its accession, Russia has initiated a number of measures designed to open up its economy, including tariff reductions on a range of industrial goods and measures to liberalise the Russian services sector, including phased liberalisation of the Russian financial and professional services sectors,” TheCityUK, an independent membership body of the UK financial services industry, said in a statement.
WTO rules would not apply to Russia’s trade relations with the United States however, until that country’s Jackson-Vanik law is changed.
Named after Representatives Henry Jackson and Charles Vanik, the measure was introduced in 1974 to restrict trade with the then-Soviet Union and other non-market economies until they allow free migration.
The restrictions imposed by Jackson-Vanik are often waived, but remain in place and are a thorn in the side of Russian-US trade relations.