World Trade Organization (WTO)
Remarks by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Yuri Fedotov at Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mercury Club Meeting on WTO Issues, Moscow, May 12, 2005
Unofficial translation from Russian
The theme of Russia's accession to the WTO and of the expectations arising in this connection appears very topical. The words "hopes and anxieties," put into the name of the present roundtable, largely reflect the mixed sentiment that really exists in the Russian business circles and society as a whole in respect of the likely implications of the entry of our country into the WTO.
The principled strategic course Russia embarked on more than ten years ago towards acquiring full-fledged membership in the WTO is being consistently implemented. In the end this move will enable our country to more fully integrate into the world economic system, to enhance its role in shaping the rules of international trade and to create a more stable and predictable framework for the activities of national and foreign business.
We presume that the more fully we assimilate the advantages and mechanisms of this organization, the more reliable protection, corresponding to international rules, it will be possible to provide for the Russian economy. At issue in this case is not only the protection of the domestic market, but also a reasonable liberalization of economic activity and the expansion of fair competition among entrepreneurs - domestic and foreign alike. To find a sensible balance between opening up the economy and protectionism, with the major focus being on the long-term goals of economic and social development, is one of the most important tasks of our economic agencies in the WTO negotiation process. Since this involves primarily access to the Russian market of goods and services, it is important at the same time to stimulate domestic export by measures and programs not contrary to WTO norms. As to the present stage of accession talks, analyzing the experience of the last few years, one can state a considerable acceleration of this process. The increasing dynamics in the signing of bilateral protocols, and the significant progress in the formation of a final report of the Working Group, where our obligations under the entire range of WTO agreements will be set forth, are testimony to this. There is a great temptation to declare the entry of the talks into a concluding stage.
Without going into detail, I would like to share the following evaluation - in our opinion, there is a not less, but a more difficult stage of negotiations ahead. For more often than not, the most complicated issues remain not agreed upon, on which it will not be easy to reach compromise. In a number of cases, moreover, on what would seem matters already closed a rollback is occurring, a toughening of the position of our partners. As before, demands are being put forward that go beyond the standard framework of WTO agreements (the so called WTO Plus).
In this context I would like to note that entry into the WTO is not an aim in itself and the point is not to be in as soon as possible, but the quality of accession. It is important to agree with our leading trade partners on terms of access to the Russian market of goods and services and on changes to Russian legislation which would maximally consider the position of Russian industrial and business circles. For what's at stake is the growth prospects of whole branches of our economy - aircraft and car manufacturing, banking and insurance, agriculture and other. It seems that resolving these issues will require a more consistent, better coordinated endeavor of all the concerned agencies with the employment, in the most complicated cases, of the potential of the Government Commission on WTO and Liaison with the OECD. Within its terms of reference, the MFA will continue rendering this process necessary assistance, participating in the negotiations, including WTO themes in the agenda of meetings, during visits at the highest level among other thing