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19 Jun, 2009 08:55

WTO accession bid gains more business support

Russia’s government has told the country’s top businessmen that it wants to join the World Trade Organization as soon as possible.

Last week Russia announced it would continue to seek entry not as a separate country, but as a part of a customs bloc with two of its CIS neighbors – Kazakhstan and Belarus.

16 years of negotiations won’t be in vain, Russia’s Minister of Economic Development told the country’s businessmen – a three-country customs union will be formed by the beginning of next year and Elvira Nabiulina says the new round of talks won't start from scratch.

“Our goal is not to lose the potential which we’ve accumulated but to bring it into the new process of accession.”

Years ago these entrepreneurs opposed the idea of Russia WTO accession – they feared the flow of imports could kill off underdeveloped Russian industry.. Now many have changed their views, including David Yakobashvilli, Board Chairman at Wimm-Bill-Dann.

“You will be never ready, you know. It will take 100 years and in a hundred years we will always find there are a lot of obstacles not to join the WTO. So, when I think about it, it would be the best because it is 153 countries as I understand, that are joining the WTO, and only we, such a big country, are not joining. It is something wrong.”

Analysts say – joining as a trade bloc will take more time, and say it is a protectionist move by the Russian government to delay the opening of the country’s markets. But Russia says – joined together in a customs area the three countries will have more to offer to the WTO.

Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia will jointly apply to the WTO as one customs union.
They offer 170 million consumers, and the diverse economy ranging from food products like these to rich mineral resources.