Tbilisi, Moscow sign deal paving way for Russia's WTO entry
Georgia and Russia signed a deal on Wednesday, removing the final obstacle in Moscow's 18-year bid for membership to the World Trade Organization, Georgian envoy Zurab Chiaberashvili told AFP.
The Swiss-mediated accord will see international monitoring of cross-border trade through Georgia's Kremlin-backed breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite Moscow's initial rejection of external oversight.
Russia submitted its application to join the WTO in 1993, but talks dragged on and its membership bid was further delayed after its brief war with Georgia in 2008.
As a member of the WTO, Georgia is able veto any membership bids. But after months of Swiss-mediated talks, Tbilisi and Moscow finally reached a bilateral agreement.
With Georgia's opposition removed, a formal negotiating session on Russia's accession will open Thursday, when the 62 countries participating actively in discussions over Moscow's membership are expected to rubberstamp the overall agreement.
After the first green light from Thursday's meeting, a second approval would be required from the entire membership to confirm the accession.
This approval is likely to be made during a conference of ministers in mid-December.
The World Bank estimates that WTO accession may add up to 11 percent to Russia's gross domestic product in the long term as business becomes more streamlined and the investment climate improves.
© 2011 AFP