Russia's accession to WTO

On April 27, 2010 in Washington, on the eve of another round of negotiations on Russia accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). I.Shuvalov, the First Vice-Premier said that Russia intends to continue the process of joining the organization on its own, rather than as a member of the Customs Union (CU) with Belarus and Kazakhstan.


In the refusal from coordinated negotiations on the WTO accession together with Belarus and Kazakhstan there can be seen a conflict of two priorities: integration in the CIS framework or the continuation of liberalization of external trade under WTO standards.

Crisis in 2009 was characterized by significant changes in approaches to the priorities in foreign policy. For many years, the accession to WTO was an officially declared priority for Russia, but in 2009 there was announced that the final preparations for the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are completed, the operation of a single customs territory is started from January 1, 2010 and in view of the above, the amendments in the format of Russia accession to the WTO.

On June 17, 2009 at informal consultations in Geneva, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have informed the WTO representatives on the intention to proceed with practical steps to create a Customs Union on January 1, 2010 and halted negotiations on accession to the WTO and to reach to consensus on the nature and format of further process of accession.

At the bilateral and multilateral consultations held in Geneva on October 2009 , the WTO members were provided a joint position of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, according to which the accession of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan to the WTO should be carried out on agreed terms, and those issues which fall within the competence of the Customs Union, these conditions should be fully harmonized. The Delegation of the Customs Union has informed WTO members that the countries will continue the accession de jure as sovereign countries, a different approach could be linked to serious legal and procedural problems and substantially delay the completion of negotiations. In WTO opinion, the decision to resume the negotiations should be taken by representatives of the Working Groups on accession of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation to WTO after submission of the information on the Customs Union. In the IV quarter of 2009, members of a single negotiating committee conducted expert consultations with the WTO Secretariat and key partners.

A decision on Russia accession to the WTO as a member of the Customs Union has inspired interest in the EU and the U.S. José Manuel Barroso, European Commission President has highlighted the evidence that Russia should be the member of WTO, and the EU is ready to provide all necessary assistance. The U.S. and Russia have agreed to accelerate negotiations on the conditions of Russia accession to the WTO. Negotiations held in April, have confirmed the desire of both parties to achieve the results. In particular, it was noted at the meeting that after signing a new agreement on SNF "trade and economic agreement between Russia and America - it is what business is looking forward in the first turn."

With regard to the Customs Union, its formation is not halted by anybody: Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will have to clarify their positions and strategy in regard to WTO at their summer meeting. The final decision on this issue will be made by the Presidents of the three countries in July 2010. 

N.P. Volovik – Head of Laboratory for External Economic Activity