rivalry between Russia and Ukraine escalates
of multilateral and bilateral talks on Russia's entry into WTO
finished last week in Geneva. Once again such issues as customs
administration, technical barriers in trade, veterinary and phytosanitary
measures and agriculture were discussed. In other words, Russia
was demanded to make concessions in terms of regulating these
issues. The main opponents were the US, Australia and Argentine.
However, the results actually were quite modest: only the protocol
with Argentine was signed.
In fact, December
WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong, where Russia hoped to
be admitted to the organization, is not a long way away. Optimism
held out in the Russian government until the very last moment.
"Given the positive attitude of our partners, the USA in
the first place, we will be able to solve this problem by 2006,"
Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov said at the World
Economic Forum held recently in Moscow. However, there came a
flop. The head of the Russian delegation, the head of the Department
of Trade Negotiations of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development
and Trade, Maksim Medvedkov commented on the results of the round:
"We hope to finish the talks over Russia's entry into the
World Trade Organization by the end of the spring. One of our
goals was to try to do this by the time of the Hong Kong Conference.
We do not exclude a possibility of moving forward by December.
However, officially and technically, we will not be able to finish
the procedures by this time, of course." Although Russia
has finished talks with 50 countries, including the European Union,
there are still eight persisting ones left: the USA, Canada, Australia,
Switzerland, Columbia, Malaysia, Philippines and Uruguay. According
to Medvedkov, talks with these countries can be also finished
by the end of this year, but not in time for the Hong Kong.
2006 was called a more realistic time for finishing the talks
long time ago. Right before the last round of the talks Maksim
Medvedkov himself said that the multilateral talks were more likely
to be finished by the summer of 2006. There was even a suggestion
to transfer issues left inside WTO, i.e. to admit Russia and then
to go on with the talks. Perhaps, WTO has not had such a practice
At the moment
Russia might face new problems. Right at the final lap the rivalry
between Russia and Ukraine became escalated. The question is who
will be the first. The other day WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy
publicly expressed his doubts concerning the possibility of Russia
and Ukraine to finish all the talks in time for the ministerial
meeting in Hong Kong. "There is a long queue of countries
aiming at joining WTO. Russia and Ukraine are among them,"
Lamy said. "It seems to me that Russia and Ukraine won't
be able to finish talks on joining WTO by the end of this year.
They will have to wait a little bit more". According to Lamy
Saudi Arabia will be the only one to join WTO at the December
Conference. Looks like it succeeded in explaining the slow-witted
opponents the role of the zakah in taxation system of the country.
However, the demand of regulating domestic and export prices on
energy carriers remains.
In fact, there
is nothing terrible in Russian and Ukraine waiting a little bit
more. If only Ukraine would not become the first. If this happens
as the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade fears, Ukraine
will put forward its own demands at once, as a member of WTO.
These demands may concern trading pipes or sugar or lard or whatever.Participants
of the talks seem to be self-confident: if Russia becomes the
first it will put obstacles in the way of Ukraine and will settle
old scores in trade (which exist, of course).
both countries are trying to convince each other that they will
be synchronizing all the processes until the very moment of joining
WTO in order to do it on the same day. However, when speaking
to the third persons, Kiev representatives now and then express
the desire to outdo Russia. Viktor Yushchenko, for instance, is
absolutely sure that Ukraine will enter WTO by the end of this
year. He has every reason to say so. Although the country is completely
unprepared to join WTO from the technical point of view (consider
tariff negotiations and the legislation), it can be given a little
push at a high political level. The US assures Ukraine of its
support: prominent senators and even George W. Bush stressed several
times that joining WTO is the question almost solved.
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