GENEVA — After 18 years of talks, Russia on Thursday cleared a key hurdle in the process to enter the World Trade Organization and become a full partner in international commerce.
“This win-win result will bring Russia more firmly into the global economy and make it more attractive to do business,” said WTO director-general Pascal Lamy, shortly after a working party examining its accession agreed on the terms and market opening commitments governing its membership.
Lamy said Russia has “anchored” its trade regime into the global system of multilateral rules, and also noted it would create new trade opportunities and increase transparency, stability and predictability in its trade regulations.
The next step is for the WTO’s ruling General Council to green light the agreement at the level of trade ministers during the Dec. 15 to 17 biannual trade summit. Russia would become the 154th member of the WTO 30 days after its National Assembly ratifies the accession package.
Maxim Medvedkov, Russia’s chief negotiator, told reporters he expected his country to become a full member sometime in 2012. He said the success of China’s entry in 2001 in boosting its trade and investment was one of the factors that influenced Russia’s decision to join.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said, “The Obama Administration has been a strong supporter and advocate of this process…and we have worked closely with Russia and other WTO members to help move the process toward a successful conclusion. This step marks a win for both the Russian people and the American people. It will spur trade and support significant job growth in both countries as a result of lower tariffs and increased market access. It also brings Russia into a rules-based system, increasing transparency and predictability…ensuring that the Russian government is held accountable to a system of international trading rules governed by the WTO.”
Lamy said the entry terms of Russia are “more ambitious overall” than China’s a decade ago. Overall, Russia’s average final legally binding tariff ceiling will be 7.8 percent, down from a 2011 average of 10 percent for all products, and for manufactured goods will be 7.3 percent compared with the 9.5 percent average today.
However, many apparel lines will be bound at higher tariff rates than the average. Women’s and girls jerseys, pullovers, suits, ensembles, blazers, jackets and cotton dresses will face a final ceiling of 15 percent by 2015, down from 20 percent upon accession. Men’s and boys jerseys and pullovers containing at least 50 percent wool will also face similar final bound tariffs of 15 percent by 2015, down from 20 percent upon entry.
However, many textile materials such as synthetic yarn or cotton fabrics will face final duties of 8 percent by 2014, down from 10 percent upon entry. Russia’s tariffs upon accession will be bound at zero for cotton.