Russia looks for joint entry to WTO with Belarus and Kazakhstan

A three-country block of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus will start the process of WTO accession next week in Geneva. The three CIS neighbours will form a customs area before seeking entry to the organization.

No nation has ever entered the WTO within an existing customs space. Experts say doing so will take more time.

In June, Russia partly banned dairy product imports from Belarus and meat imports from Kazakhstan, meaning that before starting WTO negotiations, the three countries will have to sort out their own trade relationships, according to Aleksey Portansky, Head, of the Information Office on Russia’s WTO accession.

“It’s necessary to establish good relations to finish trade wars between the two countries and after that to complete the customs union.”

While some are puzzled why Russia has opted for ties with countries less advanced on the road to WTO accession, others say it’s simply not in hurry to join. Chris Weafer at Uralsib says Russia is reluctant to open its markets, fearing a surge of imports which could kill off some inefficient Russian industries.

“There was a danger with this new U.S. President and Europe that there could have been an acceleration on the part of the West to admit Russia to the WTO. Frankly that would not suit Russia at all at this time. I definitely see this move as a protectionist measure from Russia to protect itself from WTO.”

Russia's Prime Minister supports a bit of a healthy protectionism in the short term.

“We will be pursuing deeper integration of our countries into the world economy on favorable for us terms. I think this decision is well-timed, especially in during the financial crisis, when many hi-tech producers try to supply to the third countries at dumping prices. We leave the WTO entry as our strategic goal.”