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WTO: The end of the story and the beginning of a new epoch

By Messenger Staff
Monday, November 7
It looks like the controversies over the Russian accession into the WTO might be over. The proposal made by Swiss negotiators was accepted first by Georgians then by Russians. Both sides claim they have made no important concessions and accordingly maintain they are "winners". In both countries, however, there are critical voices raised about certain concessions made by the competing sides.

Initially Georgia demanded deployment of its customs officers at the de jure border of Georgia which is now under the control of separatist regimes. Later Georgia slightly modified its demand and agreed to deployment of the international observers at these places. The Russians were categorically against such a step, recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Moscow, meanwhile, agreed to inform international bodies and Georgia about cargo movement at these points. Finally the Swiss mediators recommended that international private contractors be hired to monitor cargo movement and inform the appropriate international organizations, although this final agreement did not reveal which political territories would be monitored.

Georgian officials claim that this was a victory of their diplomacy as international monitors would be deployed on the ground, and those monitors recognize Georgian national borders. Thus, Moscow indirectly has to recognize these borders. Although Russians disagree, the fact is that a third party --either international observers or a private contracting company-- will monitor cargo movement both ways at the officially recognized international border between Georgia and Russia.

There is one paragraph in the final agreement, however, that states international monitoring will be carried out at the entryway of two "trade corridors", one of which starts at Psou in Abkhazia and ends in Zugdidi, and the other which starts in the Roki Tunnel in South Ossetia and ends in Gori. This is a controversial issue for some analysts in Georgia.

Other issues were not solved in the final agreement, either, such as air and sea transport to Abkhazia. It seems these remain "black holes" in the agreement. So, who really is the "winner" according to the agreement, allowing Russia to accede to the WTO, will only be known when the final text is officially published and the process of cargo monitoring begins.