The 2012 WTO accession of Russia: Negotiating experience – challenges, opportunities and post-accession approaches

The working party on the accession of Russia was the biggest and longest in WTO accession history. A big power that decides to join an international organisation, even if this is the WTO, cannot avoid political burdens. No big country can stay apart from world politics. The WTO accession process is tough, demanding and complex, with no clear rules. This raises questions about length, fairness and lack of procedural clarity. Yet it is risky to stay outside the rules-based multilateral trading system. To navigate the WTO accession process, upfront, it is critical to define a negotiating strategy and plan the end-game well in advance – a process that requires mobilisation of all negotiating resources, concentration and focus. Domestically, the challenge for the acceding government is to state a clear rationale for accession, demonstrate that there will be real benefits from accession or at a minimum, that there will be no negative consequences, and define red lines to be defended. Negotiating positions should be aligned with requirements for domestic reform. Strong and consistent political will and leadership with support from the parliamentary majority are necessary to conclude any accession negotiations. WTO accession may, in itself, play neither a negative nor a positive role for domestic economic developments, but by becoming a member, a country will obtain benefits in the medium and long term, through the creation of better terms for its trade within the WTO itself. In this chapter, Russia’s practical experience of its accession negotiation, the obstacles encountered, its assessment of the benefits of accession, including lessons learned during the process, are described.

Countries: Russian Federation
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