As finishing touches are put on preparations for this weekend’s G8 meeting in St Petersburg – Russia’s received a pre-summit boost with reports of a deal that would enable the country to enter the World Trade Organisation. Moscow’s been negotiating entry into the WTO for thirteen years now and the signing of a protocol is likely to add to the feel-good factor that the summit’s already bringing to St Petersburg.
‘‘This is a big achievement for our country,’‘ said one passer-by. ‘‘For Russia to become part of the club of the most powerful countries in the world, those with the strongest economies and the biggest influence on world politics.’‘
The question of financial services was at the heart of the disagreements between the United States and Russia. Moscow refuses to let foreign banks operate directly on its territory – they have to open up subsidiaries under the control of Russian commercial law. On this point Washington has conceded.
But to clinch the new deal, Moscow has accepted that overseas insurance companies should be allowed to set up branches in Russia.
Accession negotiations have dragged on so long that Moscow had threatened to stop applying WTO regulations at all – it has been shadowing WTO rules as part of the accession process.
But Russia’s new oil-fuelled economic clout on the world stage may also have prompted Washington to climbdown – Gazprom is due to announce it’s choice of partners to prospect in the Barent sea and Aeroflot will soon announce whether it will choose Boeing or Airbus for a contract for 22 long haul aircraft.
Entry to the World Trade Organisation will not though of course mean the end to trading conflicts, as Russia’s ban on the import of Georgian wine shows. Observers believe that the blockade was imposed in part just because WTO member Georgia was negotiating too hard over Russia’s accession drive.