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MOSCOW, October 31 (Itar-Tass) — The process of Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation may be finished at a WTO ministerial session on December 15, and only ratification will be needed after that, Russian president’s aide Arkady Dvorkovich told reporters on Monday.
He said Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey visited Russia on Sunday, and President Dmitry Medvedev met with her. According to Dvorkovich they had discussed all differences between Russia and Georgia, all nuances, and now the Swiss president is in Georgia to discuss Russia’s “specifications and nuances” with the Georgian leader.
“If stances do not change, I believe there are most serious hopes to complete the accession shortly,” Dvorkovich said, adding that now the documents are being finalized.
He also explained that all Russia’s positions on WTO are discussed with the partners in the Customs Union. Russia expects that they will also soon join the WTO. “In Kazakhstan this process proceeds a bit quicker, in Belarus – a bit slower”. However, the Kremlin aide stressed that there is no need in formal synchronisation and the admission on the same day.
The final informal round of consultations of the Working Group on the Russian entry into the WTO is scheduled for November 7-8. A list of commodities and services, including commitments to farmers, and the Working Group report were approved last week. The report and the commitments will lay down the foundation of the final document on the Russian accession process, which had been on for several years. The industrial assembly of vehicles remains an unsolved problem.
The schedule of Russia’s entry into the WTO, which was approved in July, is being been fulfilled. According to this schedule, the final formal meeting of the Working Group will take place in Geneva on November 10-11 and the negotiations will end by the ministerial conference due on December 15-17.
The position of Georgia – the only country impeding the Russian membership in the trade organization – is a substantial obstacle.
The WTO was established on January 1, 1995, as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that had been operating since 1947. This is the only international body supervising world trade. The WTO has the status of a UN specialized agency.
The WTO has 153 members at present. Negotiations on the admission of a new member are held within the working group, which unites countries that have unsettled trade problems with the candidate.
As a rule, negotiations focus on four areas: accessibility to the goods market, agriculture, accessibility to the market of services, and systemic matters. The candidate must bring its national laws in correspondence with the WTO rules. Two-thirds of votes of WTO members are sufficient for the admission of a new member. Regularly, the accession process takes a decade.
Russia applied for membership in the WTO in December 1994. The number of its negotiating partners kept growing through the years, and the latest working group had 58 members – the largest working group ever in the entire history of the WTO. Six-year negotiations with the United States were the most difficult for Russia (the bilateral protocol was signed on November 19, 2006). The negotiations with the European Union also lasted for six years (the protocol was signed on May 21, 2004). Full consent was reached with the United States and the EU in the second half of 2010, and Russian officials said that Moscow was able to become a WTO member by the end of 2011.