Business, Finance & Economics

Russia-Georgia deal brings Moscow closer to joining WTO


Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president, speaks with Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Argentina's president, before the family photograph at the Group of 20 (G20) Cannes Summit at the Palais des Festivals on November 3, 2011 in Cannes, France.


Chris Ratcliffe

Russia may soon end an 18-year wait to join the World Trade Organization, after Moscow okayed a trade deal with recent enemy Georgia.

Georgia is the last of 153 the WTO members to approve Russia's membership after the European Union backed the country's bid last month, Bloomberg reports.

Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in 2008.

"Russia and Georgia reached an agreement on Russia’s entry to WTO," Maxim Medvedkov, the chief negotiator for Moscow, told Bloomberg Friday. "Now we have only some little technical details to approve our bid; the most important things are left behind."

Russia’s acceptance of a trade deal with Georgia was the "last big obstacle" to WTO membership, Reuters reported.

Russia's accession will be the biggest step in world trade liberalization since China joined a decade ago, making its $1.9 trillion economy more attractive to investors 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Joining the WTO may boost Russia’s $1.5 trillion economy by more than 3 percent in the medium term, Bloomberg reported, citing the World Bank.

President Dmitry Medvedev told reporters at the G20 summit in Cannes, France, that Russia had accepted a deal on the monitoring of the country’s border with former Georgian regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia Today reported.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili reportedly hailed the deal as a "diplomatic victory."

Medvedev, meanwhile, reportedly said: "We are ready to accept certain compromise ideas that have been recently worked out with the participation of Switzerland." 

Georgia, which does not have diplomatic relations with Moscow, said the agreements for Russia's bid should be ready by Nov. 10, when a WTO working group meets  to finalize an approval document.

WTO trade ministers meet in Geneva on Dec. 15 to ratify the membership.

However, Reuters reports:

Entry also needs the approval of Russian parliament, which is likely before an election next March that is expected to return Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the presidency.

Medvedev reportedly said he hoped to have the "good news" of Russia's WTO membership tied up by the end of the year. 

RT quotes Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kapanadze, meantime, as specifying terms of the deal: "These trade corridors will stretch from the Psou River to the town of Zugdidi, from the Roki Tunnel to the town of Gori, and from the Verkhny Lars checkpoint to the Kazbegi checkpoint."