China on Thursday expressed its support for Russia’s bid to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) by 2011.
China is among the first WTO members to conclude the bilateral negotiations with Russia on market entry. We expect Russia to join the WTO as soon as possible, said a Xinhua News report quoting Jiang Yu, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman.
The latest move from China came after the European Union and Russia on Tuesday reached an agreement that backed Russia’s accession to the WTO.
We maintain Russia's entry will increase the WTO's universality and representation and expand the influence of the multi-lateral trade system, Jiang said.
The agreement with the EU is one of the last hurdles Russia had to face in its 17-year-long battle for WTO membership. Russia is the last of the big economies that is not a member of the 153-nation trade body.
The European Union and Russia have concluded their bilateral negotiations on the WTO ... and we agree that we should now focus on the multilateral negotiations so that Russia can become a member of the WTO as soon as possible, a Reuters report said quoting Herman Van Rompuy, European Council President.
In November, Russia and the EU agreed to phase out Russian export taxes on raw materials, particularly timber, a point of concern for many European nations as it drove up the costs of manufacturing. The phasing out will occur after Russia becomes a member of the WTO.
Russia first applied for membership in June 1993. However, many of the country's policies were not compliant with WTO regulations and Russia has been on a constant spree of negotiating for the position since then.
According to WTO regulations, there are minimum standards to be met by its member nations on various areas, including protection of intellectual property rights.
Russia agreed to improve its efforts to stop piracy, counterfeiting of music and other such intellectual property. Russia has been known to have virtually non-existent copyright laws under the Tsarist regime. It was only in 1967 that Russia signed its first international copyright agreement.
However, Russia also has to sort out territorial issues with Georgia, with whom it has been in a state of war since 2008. Georgia said on Thursday it was ready to start negotiations with Russia over its WTO accession, but added that it still has certain demands, Georgian daily The Messenger reported.
“We are ready to start negotiations with Russia regarding the issue; however we demand Roki and Psou checkpoints to be legalized. We have a veto right and without our assent Russia would not participate in WTO; it is the only way to start negotiations between the sides to achieve some kind of agreement, Prime Minister’s spokesperson Niko Mchedlishvili said.
Georgia, currently a member of the WTO, has the power to block Russia from joining the WTO. However, Russia does not consider Georgia much of an obstacle at this point. The Russian deputy PM Shuvalov said he has not heard anything about Georgia wanting to block Russia's ascension currently.