Russia to get final WTO green light for membership

16th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia was on Friday poised to get final approval from the World Trade Organization to join the trade body after 18 years of trying.

The WTO's 153-members are expected to give their second and final approval for Russia's membership bid this afternoon and Russia will then sign an accession protocol.

The Russian parliament would then have until June 15 next year to ratify the accord and bring it into force.

Moscow's lead negotiator Maxim Medvedkov had earlier said he expected the deal to be ratified "early next year."

Russia applied to join the trade body in 1993 but talks dragged on and its brief war with Georgia in 2008 further delayed its application.

No other country has had to bargain so long before being granted entry. China was the previous record holder with 15 years of negotiations for membership.

Moscow cleared its last hurdle for WTO accession when it finally clinched in November a deal with last hold-out Georgia, which was able to veto any accession bid by virtue of its membership to the trade body.

In all, Russia sealed 30 bilateral agreements on market access for services and 57 on access for goods in order to secure the green light from other WTO states.

For the overall package, Moscow agreed to cut its tariff ceiling from the 2011 average of 10 percent for all products to 7.8 percent.

The average tariff ceiling for agricultural products is cut to 10.8 percent from 13.2 percent currently, with manufactured goods at 7.3 percent, down from 9.5 percent.

Russia also agreed to limit farm subsidies to $9 billion (6.9 billion euros) in 2012 and to gradually reduce them to $4.4 billion by 2018.

It further pledged that all producers and distributors of natural gas in Russia would "operate on the basis of normal commercial considerations" and that the 49 percent foreign equity limit in the telecommunications sector be scrapped four years after accession.

Six demonstrators were seen on Friday outside the ministerial conference hall braving the rain and gale-force winds and holding posters saying: "WTO, Russians protest."

© 2011 AFP

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