Russia officially joins WTO after 18 years of talks

Russia has officially joined the World Trade Organization. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, July 21, signed the Federal Law "On the ratification of the Protocol on the Accession of the Russian Federation to the Marrakesh Agreement about Establishing the World Trade Organization from April 15, 1994." Moscow has been negotiating the WTO membership for about 18 years.

The State Duma passed the law on 10 July; the Federation Council approved it on July 18, 2012. The Protocol on Russia's accession to the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization registered Russia's membership in the WTO.

The ratification stipulates that Russia as a member state of the WTO assumes all obligations under the Marrakesh Agreement. The transition periods for the liberalization of market access take 2-3 years, (5-7 years for most sensitive goods).

As for sensitive sectors where economic and financial difficulties may occur due to the new conditions connected with Russia's WTO membership, such sectors include automotive, agriculture, agricultural machinery and light industries.

The document has caused much debate in both the business community and among the members of parliament. There was an address submitted to the Constitutional Court to verify the conformity of the protocol on Russia's accession to the WTO with the Constitution. However, the Constitutional Court announced July 9th that it saw no violation of the Constitution in the protocol of Russian joining the WTO.

The negotiations on Russia's accession to the WTO began in 1995. The parties were discussing the tariff policy, the state support of agriculture, industrial assembly of cars in Russia, access for foreign suppliers to the Russian market of services and many other questions.

In early 2008, the Russian authorities believed that the final was close, but due to the persistence of the main partners in the negotiations - Brussels and Washington - the time was delayed. Russia said it would join the WTO together with its partners in the Customs Union - Belarus and Kazakhstan. Russia suspended the bilateral talks, but the sides decided to resume them later.

Russia did not become a record holder for the duration of negotiations on the accession to the WTO. The title of the champion belongs to Algeria: the country has been trying to join the WTO since 1987.

Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June, Putin said that Russia's accession to the WTO would remove many barriers for trade and give a different quality to investment. The membership will also substantially change the business development strategy in the country. According to him, by investing in new production facilities in Russia, investors can expect income not only from Russian and Eurasian markets, but also from international markets as well. 

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