Russia enters WTOAfter 18 years of negotiations, the initial bid by Boris Yeltsin for Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1993 has finally paid off. The long-lasting negotiations hold the current organization’s record for the longest negotiation period, even after China’s record of its 15 year-long accession talks came to an end in 2001.

During his years in power both as President and Prime Minister, Vladmir Putin displayed continuous scepticism and forced the country to adopt a nonchalant approach with regards to the country's potential adhesion to WTO. In 2008, a different approach was initiated by Dmitri Medvedev, the current President of the Russian Federation. Medvedev took a step forward by considering Russia’s accession to WTO as a political priority in the government’s foreign policy agenda, despite Putin's continuous skepticism towards Russia's accession to WTO.

The negotiations have encountered many hurdles along the way. In Russia, the automobile industry opposed the adhesion of the country to the organization. The dissent from the assembly industry is due to the fear of increased foreign competition and increase in assembly costs due to the rise in the cost of labour. Negotiations stalled as Georgia threatened to use its veto to oppose Russia's accession following disagreements on borders and border checkpoints.

Russia’s accession is an important symbolic step for the country. In terms of economic dimensions, for some, Russian’s accession to WTO will define a more transparent and predictable environment for trade with foreign partners. For Russia, this can also be seen as an opportunity to build a more diversified economy away from its current dependency on natural gas resources. However, Russia's accession to the WTO is unlikely  to solve the current political problems and corruption undermining the country's domestic political arena.

The protocol of Russia’s accession to the WTO is expected to signed on December 16th in Geneva during the Ministerial Conference of the WTO (December 15th-17th).   

Important questions remain following the country's accession to WTO, notably, on how Russia will use its position with the organization for political purposes? How it wants to be perceived within the WTO? How will Russia's accession change the country's political and economic relations with the United States?

(Photo © DR)