Things are looking up for the only major economy that is still not in the World Trade Organisation: Russia. The European Union has formally backed its bid to join the body next year.
At the annual EU-Russia summit in Brussels, President Dmitry Medvedev said: “Following our agreements with the United States and now with the European Union, Russia joining the WTO becomes, practically, a reality.”
With a nearly one trillion euro economy now the largest outside the 153-member WTO, Russia has been trying to get in for 17 years.
The EU decision to waive its veto was largely because Moscow says it will phase out some export tariffs and rail freight fees.
Analyst Michael Emerson, with the Centre for European Policy Studies, said: “Recent cases that are important ones have included the very large increase in protection for automobile imports, and timber export duty cases: these kinds of jumps or discontinuities in Russian trade policy will be inconsistent with WTO membership.”
Now there will be talks on things like access to the Russian market for foreign car makers. Moscow is hoping to increase foreign direct investment and its steel exports to the EU. But so far it has not got the travel concessions it wanted.
euronews Brussels correspondent Sergio Cantone said: “Visa liberalisation together with balanced trade between the EU and Russia, especially after its accession to the WTO, would have given Medvedev a good Christmas present to go back to Moscow with. That would have given him a competitive advantage over his rival for the future office of the Russian presidency, Prime Minister Putin.”