WTO Approves Russia’s Membership
December 16, 2011
On December 16, 2011, during the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) ministerial gathering, the WTO agreed to extend membership to Russia. Russia is the only member of the Group of 20 leading world economies without WTO membership, and has the largest economy of any country outside the WTO. Russia now has six months to ratify its membership in the WTO and will become a WTO member 30 days after notifying the WTO of ratification. After 18 years of negotiations with WTO members, Russia and Georgia’s agreement in November on a Swiss-brokered deal regarding trade monitoring in Abkhazia and South Ossetia cleared the final obstacle blocking the extension of WTO membership to Russia.
Russian membership in the WTO would not automatically grant Russia permanent normal trade relations with the United States. The Jackson-Vanik amendment, which is part of Title IV of the Trade Act of 1974, prevents normal trade relations with Russia. Should the amendment be repealed, the President would have the authority to grant Russia permanent Most Favored Nation (MFN) status, allowing the United States to share in the benefits of Russia’s WTO commitments. Such benefits would include the ability to challenge Russia at the WTO Dispute Settlement Body. Should the amendment remain in place when Russia becomes a WTO member, the U.S. may be forced to apply a non-application clause, placing the United States at a competitive disadvantage to countries that grant Russia permanent MFN status. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has emphasized President Obama and the Administration’s determination to work with Congress to enact legislation enabling the United States to fully benefit from Russian membership in the WTO.
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