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30 Apr, 2008 01:57

Russia’s WTO bid faces another stumbling block

Ukraine has thrown its support behind Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. However, fellow neighbour Georgia is blocking the bid over Moscow’s support for the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In bilateral talks this week Moscow and Kiev put Russia’s WTO accession at the top of their 10-point partnership plan. Ukraine’s already slated in May to join the organization, which cuts trade tariffs between members.
So Ukraine will soon import products from WTO member nations at lower tariffs, while Russia fears it will lose out from Ukraine’s membership.

“This situation will lead to a dramatic increase of Western goods into Ukraine, which therefore will lead to an increasing number of Ukrainian goods coming into Russia. We need to avoid this situation and currently we are working out ways to do so,” said Russia’s Deputy Minister for Economic Development, Andrey Belousov.

In preparation for membership, Ukraine has already removed import tariffs on alcohol as well as slashing sugar duties.

Russia now just needs deals with Saudi Arabia and Georgia to join the trade body, as well as multilateral talks in Geneva. But Russia’s southern neighbour has pulled out of negotiations over Russia’s trade links with breakaway republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Georgian media reports that no bilateral talks will be held until this issue is resolved.

It’s now feared Russia’s journey to membership, which started back in 1993, may break down metres before the finish line.