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Georgia agrees for compromise on Russia’s WTO accession

October 28, 2011, 13:03 UTC+3

Georgia accepted a new proposal from the Swiss mediator for the electronic exchange of data and the international monitoring of trade between Georgia and Russia

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MOSCOW, October 28 (Itar-Tass) --- Tbilisi agreed with an ultimatum issued by the EU authorities as concerns Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization, Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kapanadze said on Thursday. Georgia accepted a new proposal from the Swiss mediator for the electronic exchange of data and the international monitoring of trade between Georgia and Russia across the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sections of the state border.

Earlier, the EU already announced that all bilateral issues within the framework of the negotiating process with Russia had been finalized and the road towards Russia’s WTO accession before the end of the year had been paved, the Novye Izvestia daily wrote. United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in turn Russia’s WTO accession can be formally approved in December.

Strictly speaking Tbilisi’s consent is not required for this, the daily noted. No WTO member enjoys veto right. Formally, an accession country has to collect two thirds of votes of member-states. However, this voting principle was applied only in the organization’s first year, when Ecuador was joining the WTO. Since then member-states agreed on consensus decision making. Nevertheless, in theory an opportunity for approving Russia’s WTO accession by a majority of votes at the WTO General Council’s meeting due on December 15-17 remains. But at first the working group should give the relevant recommendation to the General Council, a leading researcher at the Institute for Trade Policy of the Moscow Higher School of Economics, Alexei Portansky, said. Therefore its final meeting is of such great importance.

The researcher believes that an exception from the procedure is quite possible for Russia, even if Moscow does not accept Tbilisi’s new proposals that emerged under the EU pressure. But in this case Russia will become a WTO member not at once, Portansky underlined. Formal bureaucratic procedures and the State Duma’s ratification of a package of agreements will follow. “Therefore if it gets membership, this will happen only in the first quarter of 2012,” he said.

Probably, meaningful problems of Russia’s accession to the WTO have been resolved, the Kommersant business daily wrote. Yesterday Georgia after the consultations with the EU and Switzerland announced that it had finalized a compromise variant of agreements with Russia on the monitoring of trade on the border with South Ossetia and Abkhazia and Russia did not reject them, but took several days to study the proposals. On November 8 or earlier the last formal obstacles for Russia to get a status of a privileged trade partner in most world economies after the eighteen-year-long talks can be lifted, if Russia is really interested in becoming a WTO members at this moment.

The essence of proposals is not disclosed although it is evident from Georgia’s remarks that it agreed on a variant related to the electronic exchange of data and monitoring of Russia’s trade operations on the border with South Ossetia and Abkhazia without Russia’s formal recognition of these operations’ status as the Russian-Georgian trade (the daily recalls that Russia recognizes these territories as independent states, while Georgia considers them its integral part, the overwhelming majority of WTO member-states support Georgia’s position).

Russia does not give up attempts to complete the negotiations on its accession to the World Trade Organization before the end of the year, Vedomosti underlined. Otherwise, accession to the organization may be postponed for many years or Russia may simply abandon this idea, Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina said.

Without Georgia Russia’s accession to the WTO is impossible, Russian Deputy Economic Development Minister Sergei Slepnev was cited by the daily as saying. It is necessary to remove discrepancies until November 10, when the working group on Russia’s WTO accession should gather in Geneva. Russia considers Georgia’s measures political and not economic ones, but it is ready to provide Tbilisi necessary information, but the question is in the volume of this information and delivery methods, he said. According to earlier reports, Russia opposed the deployment of Georgian observers on the borders.

If Georgia’s approved agreement does not suit Russia, its road to the WTO will be closed, Georgian senior officials commented. “This is our last proposal. The game is really getting closer to the end and Russia should take a decision,” Sergei Kapanadze said.

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