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Don't Get Too Excited About Russia's WTO Deal

Customers at a Moscow fruit and vegetable market. 
Customers at a Moscow fruit and vegetable market. Photograph by Misha Japaridze/AP

Quick, everybody into Russia! After 19 years of negotiations, a period that pretty much spans the entire post-Soviet years, the Russians have finally gained access to the World Trade Organization. Which means Russia is no longer the only G-20 nation without a WTO Members Only jacket. Pop that collar, guys.

As a result, Russia’s trade barriers will begin to fall, along with the price of most foreign goods available to Russian consumers. The temptation is to compare this with China’s 2001 acceptance into the WTO, which set off a bonanza in global trade and ushered in a golden age of export-led growth for China. But this is an entirely different ballgame. Russia is not so interested in boosting its exports as it is in stimulating its economy through more consumer spending, higher income, and increased efficiency. Russia currently has a huge foreign trade surplus, about $115 billion at last count, due to oil and natural gas.