Russia’s WTO membership delayed for 3 months because of US pork and Georgian wine

A miracle did not happen: Russia failed to come to agreement with the USA regarding the WTO membership. The question of Russia’s incorporation in the World Trade Organization has been delayed for at least three months. The USA is not the only country which Russia needs to conduct WTO membership talks with now. It became known on Friday that the former Soviet republic of Georgia withdrew its signature from the document about the completion of negotiations.

The failure has become quite surprising for Russia. Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said a week ago that the talks were about to be over during the weekend. There was every reason to hope for the best: the minister was certain that Russia would be able to solve the problem of foreign companies’ presence on the Russian financial market. Russia agreed to open its market for foreign insurance enterprises, but refused to lift the ban for foreign banks. As it turned out later, the talks came to a standstill over veterinary certificates on meat products.

The USA demanded Russia should issue veterinary certificates on pork and beef products. At that Russia is not supposed to check the vet control system of another country. The price of the question made up tens of millions of dollars. The minister for Economic Development and Trade, Guerman Gref, said that Russia has a right to audit vet services of the USA, for example. “We were offered to issue certificates without such auditing process. We decided that we would not be able to agree upon that. The work has already started: a group of Russian specialists has left for the USA to see that pork-freezing technology used in the USA corresponds to international standards. The work can be completed in about three months. When we have everything ready, it will be possible to sign the document by the end of October,” Gref said.

US President Bush acknowledged that it was not easy to conduct negotiations with the USA. Bush added that the USA would like to see Russia as a WTO member. Vladimir Putin said that Russia would continue conducting the talks defending its national interests.

Russia will be able to finish the talks in October of 2006 and enter the WTO in March of 2007.

In the meantime, Georgia has withdrawn its signature from the protocol on the completion of talks regarding Russia’s incorporation in the WTO. Foreign Affairs Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said that Georgia will not support Russia’s membership in the organization until all the problems pertaining to the Georgian export bans are solved. It particularly goes about Russia’s ban on the import of Georgian wine and mineral water.

“This is not a political, but an economic problem connected with WTO membership conditions. If a country wants to become a member of this club, it must follow the rules of the game,” Bezhuashvili said.

Russian specialists from the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade are currently discussing the question. Spokespeople for the ministry said that they are not certain whether Georgia had a right to withdraw its signature. Minister Gref said that he did not understand his Georgian colleagues. “As long as Georgia withdraws its signature, it means that this country is at conflict with itself,” the Russian minister said. “We will be ready to discuss their requirements if they fit in WTO rules. If it is a purely political matter, there is no point in discussing the question,” added he.

Vremya Novostei

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov