One of the last barriers to Moscow’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) was removed in Brussels (October 21) when an agreement was reached resolving an auto parts dispute between Russia and the European Union.  

However, a final barrier to Russia’s 17 year bid to become a full fledged WTO member remains if it receives a veto from a single member, in this case Georgia, a member since 2000.  Georgia wants Russia to allow it some control over trade in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Russian-controlled enclaves inside Georgia that provoked a bloody confrontation in 2008.

WTO and EU officials are hopeful that Swiss-led negotiations to end the dispute with Georgia will result in formal membership for Russia by the WTO Summit scheduled for December 15. 

Earlier in the week (October 10), Russia, Ukraine and six other former Soviet republics signed a free trade agreement that observers said may be the first step toward the ‘Eurasian Union’ recently promoted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The pact is seen as part of Putin’s drive to rebuild economic ties with the 11-nation Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Eurasia Union project has presented problems at the Russia-WTO accession talks although Moscow insists the pact will not affect commitments Russia must undertake in order to join the WTO. 

After almost two decades, there are emerging signs that Moscow may be tiring of its effort to persuade the 153 WTO members that Russia belongs in their club. In a recent televised comment on Moscow Television, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said his country would “survive” if it didn’t get WTO membership.  After all, it is the largest economy outside the EU and the seventh largest economy in the world.