Top US lawmaker ties Russia WTO bid to Georgia
US House Speaker John Boehner warned Tuesday he will block Russia's two-decade bid to join the World Trade Organization until it respects former Soviet republic Georgia's "territorial integrity."
"Then, and only then, will movement on the WTO question be worth considering," Boehner said in prepared remarks to be delivered to the conservative Heritage Foundation think-tank.
Boehner's comments were significant because the US Congress would need to repeal a Cold War-era law, the so-called Jackson-Vanik amendment, in order to set the stage for Moscow to join the club of free-trading nations.
After the Georgia-Russia war of 2008, Moscow recognized the Russian-backed breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, but most of the world regards them as parts of Georgian territory.
Georgia, a WTO member since 2000, has said it could veto Russia's entry into the world body over the status of the two regions and is demanding the right to monitor cross-border trade.
Boehner said he had seen "alarming reports" that US President Barack Obama's administration "won't pressure Russia for a return to pre-2008 borders."
Obama "should resolve this stalemate in a manner that respects the territorial integrity of Georgia," said the speaker, who under the US Constitution is second in line for the presidency behind the vice president.
Russia, which opened negotiations to join in 1993, is the largest economy in the world to remain outside the WTO and has long expressed frustration with delays in the accession bid it launched in 1993.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier this month accused the West of using the Georgia issue as an excuse to bar Moscow from joining the WTO despite progress on trade disputes covering agriculture and automobiles.
© 2011 AFP