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Russia’s WTO Accession Is “Good News,” U.S. Says
August 27, 2012

By Stephen Kaufman
IIP Staff Writer
August 24, 2012

Rows of computers
Russia’s WTO accession is expected to lower the cost of imported goods for Russian consumers. Above, TV sets in a Moscow shop display.

U.S. officials congratulated Russia for its formal accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and said the move brings one of the world’s fastest-growing markets under the rules of the global trading system and will help increase trade between Russia and the United States.

“It’s not only good news for Russia; we also think it’s good news for American companies and workers,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington August 22.

Nuland said Americans have been “strong and long champions of Russia coming into the WTO,” and have sought “for many years to work through our issues and to see this day.”

Russia began its accession process in June 1993, and its WTO membership was approved by all of the organization’s members on December 16, 2011. Its formal accession on August 22 occurred 30 days after the Russian government officially notified the WTO Secretariat that it had completed the ratification process.

During the negotiations over its accession, the United States and other WTO members called on Russia to dismantle protective trade barriers and state subsidies, according to press reports. These reports have speculated that Russia will cut its average import tariff by 5.9 percent and make imported products cheaper for Russian consumers.

In addition, the World Bank has estimated that Russia’s entry into the WTO, whose members carry out 97 percent of global trade, could increase its gross domestic product by an extra 3.3 percent over the next three years.

As a member of the WTO, Russia is expected to establish predictable tariff rates, ensure transparency in its trade legislation and be part of the organization’s trade dispute settlement process.

U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk and acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank each issued congratulatory statements to Russia August 22. Blank said Russia’s WTO membership “brings its over 140 million consumers and a $1.8 trillion economy into the global rules-based trading system.”

Both officials also called on the U.S. Congress to terminate the 1974 Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions against Russia and to authorize permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) between the two countries.

The law’s provisions have been waived by every U.S. president since 1994. According to the USTR, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee approved a bill that would terminate the application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment on July 19 and would authorize President Obama to extend PNTR to Russia. A similar bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representative Ways and Means Committee on July 26.

In a June 19 essay in the Wall Street Journal, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the termination of Jackson-Vanik and a PNTR agreement with Russia would be “an investment in the more open and prosperous Russia that we want to see develop.” Clinton also said Russia’s middle class has been calling for “a more transparent and accountable government, a more modern political system, and a diversified economy,” and the United States “should support these Russian efforts.”

Clinton said trade between the United States and Russia has increased in recent years, but “isn’t reaching anything close to its full potential today,” with U.S. exports to Russia amounting to less than 1 percent of its global exports.

According to press reports, Russia was the world’s ninth-largest exporter in 2011, shipping $522 billion in goods and $54 billion in services to other nations, while importing $323 billion in goods and $90 billion in services.

Extending PNTR and increasing trade levels will create new economic opportunities for American businesses and “support the political and economic changes that Russia’s people are demanding,” Clinton said. Such changes, she added, also will “ultimately make Russia a more just and open society as well as a better partner over the long term for the U.S.”

Russia will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vladivostok on September 2–9. According to APEC’s website, member economies, international organizations and business leaders will discuss trade and investment liberalization, regional economic integration, ways to strengthen food security and establish reliable supply chains, and how to intensify cooperation to foster innovative growth.