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New obstacles emerge on the wey to Russia's accession to WTO

November 07, 2011, 13:59 UTC+3

The long years of negotiations on Russia’s accession to the Word Trade Organisation (WTO) may be over this week

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MOSCOW, November 7 (Itar-Tass) — The long years of negotiations on Russia’s accession to the Word Trade Organisation (WTO) may be over this week - Moscow and Tbilisi reached a compromise at the WTO negotiations. However, an unexpected obstacle has emerged in the way: the US Congress demands to oblige Russia first to join the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). In addition, Ukraine may at the last moment withdraw its consent to Russia’s accession to the WTO.

Moscow and Tbilisi reached a compromise on the WTO negotiations: a private company will pass to Georgia information about goods delivered to Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Russia, Vedomosti writes. “This is our diplomatic victory,” Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said commenting on the agreement with Russia. Russia has also not sacrificed its principles, a Russian government official parries. Russia may join the WTO as early as December, but it will become the organisation’s full-fledged member no earlier than in mid-2012, the publication says.

However, according to other newspapers, it is early yet to celebrate the flawless victory. The Ukrainians, whose mind is haunted by the natural gas prices, as well as the US Congress, in the end decided to put a spoke in Russia’s wheel.

Ukraine may at the last moment withdraw its consent to Russia’s accession to the WTO, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. First Vice Prime Minister Andrei Klyuyev revealed Kiev’s plans as he spoke in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) on Friday. The parliamentary opposition right there registered a draft resolution with a list of demands to Russia, the main of which is to reduce the natural gas price and ensure free access for Ukrainian goods to the Russian market. Klyuyev spoke about obstacles Ukraine could create to Russia’s accession to the WTO, as he was answering questions about the gas negotiations underway at present. He admitted that if the gas contracts are not revised shortly, starting from January 1, 2012 the gas price for Ukraine will rise – taking into account the 100-dollar discount - up to 456 US dollars per 1,000 cubic metres.

Meanwhile, head of Ukraine’s Public Policy Institute Viktor Chumak in a commentary to the publication expressed doubt that Kiev is really going to go down a path that will inevitably cause irritation of both European partners and WTO members. “Besides, Russia’s membership in the WTO is advantageous for Ukraine itself, because then we will be in a single system of trade operations rules and will be able to settle all trade disputes in a civilised way,” the political analyst said. He believes that the real reason for such a loud declaration were difficulties in the natural gas negotiations, which, apparently, are coming to a deadlock again.

Another obstacle to WTO membership also appeared suddenly, Novye Izvestiya writes. A group of US Congressmen last weekend sent a letter to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, expressing concern over Russia’s accession to the organisation. In their view, Moscow is departing from the obligations it had assumed in 2006 to join the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) within the framework of the WTO accession process. The document provides for the reduction to zero of all duties on high-technology products. Russia assumed this obligation also within other WTO agreements, however, the Congressmen insist that they are insufficiently exhaustive. There is a verbal agreement to join the agreement, but the US lawmakers want a written commitment.

the publication’s experts doubt that the white house will do their bidding, but such a turn of events cannot be entirely excluded. Expert of the Development Centre Sergei Pukhov said that if the American authorities do the Congress’ bidding they will discredit themselves. “In fact, it would mean that the political authority there has no decisive role,” he explained. “In this situation Russia will not be admitted anywhere, and the WTO accession issue will have to be coordinated with a new US president,” Pukhov predicts.

Director General of the Political Information Centre Alexei Mukhin believes that the Americans are playing their old game: pretend to agree, and then backtrack: “So it will be hardly surprising if by the end of the year we will not join the WTO.”

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