The Multilateralist

Washington Grades Moscow’s WTO performance

The U.S. government has issued its first report (mandated by Congress) on Russian compliance with its new World Trade Organization obligations. After almost two decades of sporadic negotiations, Russia finally joined the WTO in August 2012. The report notes some areas where Russia has been sluggish, but it’s ultimately a positive assessment of the transition ...

The U.S. government has issued its first report (mandated by Congress) on Russian compliance with its new World Trade Organization obligations. After almost two decades of sporadic negotiations, Russia finally joined the WTO in August 2012. The report notes some areas where Russia has been sluggish, but it’s ultimately a positive assessment of the transition to membership:

Market-opening changes made by Russia during the course of its WTO accession process may already have brought benefits to U.S. exporters, as evidenced by the fact that year-on-year percentage growth in U.S. exports to Russia was up 29 percent in 2012 over 2011, and up another 10.5 percent through the first quarter of 2013 compared with the first quarter of 2012. In order to maximize positive results such as these, USTR, in concert with other U.S. government agencies, will continue to monitor closely Russia’s implementation of its WTO commitments.

This Financial Times account offers a much darker picture:

Russia is facing increased competition from abroad just as it is starting to fear a new reality of weaker growth and lower investment.

“The mood is to defend the economy,” says Natalya Volchkova, director for policy studies at the New Economic School in Moscow.

Pascal Lamy, the WTO’s director-general, was forced to issue a firm rejoinder this year after senior Russian officials asked him if there was scope to ease or escape the strict conditions of their membership.

EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht accused Russia of “doing exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to do” after joining, by seeking to raise obstacles to trade.

“Since accession, Russian trade policy has mainly been about using WTO rules in favour of protectionism,” Ms Volchkova says.

The U.S. government has issued its first report (mandated by Congress) on Russian compliance with its new World Trade Organization obligations. After almost two decades of sporadic negotiations, Russia finally joined the WTO in August 2012. The report notes some areas where Russia has been sluggish, but it’s ultimately a positive assessment of the transition to membership:

Market-opening changes made by Russia during the course of its WTO accession process may already have brought benefits to U.S. exporters, as evidenced by the fact that year-on-year percentage growth in U.S. exports to Russia was up 29 percent in 2012 over 2011, and up another 10.5 percent through the first quarter of 2013 compared with the first quarter of 2012. In order to maximize positive results such as these, USTR, in concert with other U.S. government agencies, will continue to monitor closely Russia’s implementation of its WTO commitments.

This Financial Times account offers a much darker picture:

Russia is facing increased competition from abroad just as it is starting to fear a new reality of weaker growth and lower investment.

“The mood is to defend the economy,” says Natalya Volchkova, director for policy studies at the New Economic School in Moscow.

Pascal Lamy, the WTO’s director-general, was forced to issue a firm rejoinder this year after senior Russian officials asked him if there was scope to ease or escape the strict conditions of their membership.

EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht accused Russia of “doing exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to do” after joining, by seeking to raise obstacles to trade.

“Since accession, Russian trade policy has mainly been about using WTO rules in favour of protectionism,” Ms Volchkova says.

David Bosco is an associate professor at Indiana University's School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of books on the U.N. Security Council and the International Criminal Court, and is at work on a new book about governance of the oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist