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RF, Georgia sign deal on WTO accession talks

November 09, 2011, 17:35 UTC+3

Russia and Georgia have signed an agreement, which removes the latest obstacle for Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO)

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GENEVA, November 9 (Itar-Tass) — Russia and Georgia have signed an agreement, which removes the latest obstacle for Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Russian chief negotiator Maxim Medvedkov told Itar-Tass.

Russia and Georgia signed the agreement on customs administration and monitoring of goods trade. The agreement, which was concluded after the bilateral talks under Switzerland’s mediation, should remove the latest obstacle on the way to Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Medvedkov said on Wednesday.

Recently Georgia’s position has been the unique serious obstacle for Russia’s admission to the WTO.

All decisions on Russia’s accession to the WTO should be made public next week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

“We expect the process to be completed next week. All documents will be ready for the WTO ministerial meeting slated for December 15,” Ryabkov told journalists. “We practically settled all issues, including with Georgia. We’ve not yet finalised them because there are several moments, which are entering the final stage.” “Nothing was set for them to turn into anything serious,” Ryabkov added.

Earlier, the Russian and Georgian delegations reached agreement on a draft document related to the administration of trade in goods.

Under the agreement, the working group should gather for its final session in Geneva on November 11-12. All talks should be completed by the WTO ministerial conference slated for December 15-17.

Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey told Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili about Switzerland’s document on Russia’s accession to the WTO, the Georgian presidential press service reported.

The press service said in its report that Calmy-Rey “told Mikhail Saakashvili about the Russian side’s position on the WTO membership”.

“The document, worked out by Switzerland, the mediator country, took into account all Georgia’s demands envisioning monitoring of cargoes traffic on the Russian-Georgian border and electronic data exchange,” the report says.

It also says the final round of talks between the working groups is scheduled to be held in Geneva on November 9-10. “If the parties come to an agreement, the problem of Russia’s membership in the WTO will be solved by 153 countries at the ministerial meeting on December 15,” the report says.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry said, “Georgia did everything to give Russia an opportunity to become a member of the WTO and really settled for many compromises in order to make proposals acceptable to Russia.”

They said, “Switzerland’s plan is a verified document, which may be acceptable both to Georgia and Russia.” “In our view, the Swiss plan is based on the generally recognised international principles. It is acceptable both to Georgia and to Russia and can contribute to Russia’s accession to the WTO,” they said.

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. It is headquartered in Geneva.

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.

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.

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