WTO Working Group Approves Russia’s 18-Year Membership Bid

Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization was all but sealed when a working group agreed on the terms of membership by adopting a package of documents that include its obligations on goods and services.

The group agreed today to ask trade ministers to back Russia’s entry during a Dec. 15-17 meeting in Geneva. Russian lawmakers will probably approve membership in early 2012 following parliamentary elections next month, said Maxim Medvedkov, the country’s chief WTO negotiator.

“It has been a long journey,” WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy told reporters in Geneva. “In acceding to the WTO, Russia embraces a series of rules and commitments that are the foundation of an open, transparent and nondiscriminatory global trading system.”

Under the terms sealed today, Russia will gradually cut its average tariff ceiling for manufactured goods to 7.3 percent from its current 9.5 percent and duties on farm products will drop to 10.8 percent from 13.2 percent. On average, the final tariff cap on Russian goods will fall to 7.8 percent, compared with 10 percent now.

Foreign beef, pork and poultry entering Russia’s market will face lower tariffs while higher duties will be applied to products exceeding quotas. The longest period for implementation is eight years for poultry, followed by seven years for cars, helicopters and civil aircraft.

Stability, Predictability

“More than one-third of our GDP is made abroad,” Medvedkov said. “We are seventh in the world in terms of exports. We need a stable, predictable instrument to develop this trade.”

Russia exported more than $400 billion in goods last year, mainly to the European Union, Ukraine, Turkey, China and Belarus, according to the WTO. Imports were worth almost $249 billion. Trade in services such as transportation and travel amounted to $114 billion.

China bypassed Germany as Russia’s biggest trade partner last year and annual turnover may exceed $70 billion in 2011 and reach $200 billion in 2020, from $59 billion in 2010, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last month.

Once Russia joins the 153-member WTO, the organization will represent 98 percent of global trade, Lamy said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer M. Freedman in Geneva at jfreedman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Leon Mangasarian at lmangasarian@bloomberg.net

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