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Potential US pullout from WTO will not be fatal for organization — Russian minister

Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin Sergei Savostyanov/TASS
Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin
© Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

MOSCOW, August 14. /TASS/. The potential withdrawal of the United States from WTO will not be fatal to it and may prompt reforms in the organization, Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin told reporters on Wednesday.

"Loss of one major player is not nevertheless fatal for the organization. It is even possible that a serious change in the configuration of ‘tactical unions’ and groups of interests inside WTO, which will inevitably follow the US withdrawal, will give an impetus to its reforms and improvements of multilateral rules in areas, where negotiations are in a deadlock for a long time," Oreshkin said.

No global alternative to WTO with comparable efficiency is present and can be foreseen for the time being and there is no sense even for such major international trade players as the United States to discontinue participation in it, the Minister added.

He also said that statements made by US President Donald Trump on potential withdrawal of the country from WTO and intentional blocking of the appeal authority of the Organization looked like bargaining practices to apply pressure on partners in trade. 

"This is not the first time when statements regarding the possible withdrawal from WTO are made by the United States. If "reminders" of such kind are voiced too frequently, they start looking like negotiating practices designed to impress counterparties in discussed trade deals," Oreshkin said.

The position taken by US trade diplomats in Geneva on the key issue - functioning of the dispute settlement systems, suggests the same idea, the Minister said. "It appears that the US creates for itself extra levers of influence on their trade partners by blocking normal operation of the WTO appeal authority, in particular for the purpose of pushing them to make decisions on reforms in the Organization that benefit Washington," Oreshkin added.

The WTO appeal authority currently has three arbitrators out of seven, i.e. the minimum number required for consideration of appeals. However, two of them will resign in December 2019, meaning that operations of the appeal authority will be paralyzed. The US at the same time repeatedly blocked the procedure of appointing arbitrators to vacant positions.