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Georgian Government's assessment of Russia's WTO accession

By Ernest Petrosyan
Monday, November 7
After 18 years of negotiations, several repeated blocks of Russia’s WTO entry since 2008, and intense international pressure, the Swiss mediated talks ended with the achievement of a compromise agreement between Russia and Georgia, each claiming credit for the success of the agreement.

"It's our diplomatic victory," said Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. "What we have achieved today is a very important acknowledgement of what Georgia's customs borders are," he agreed. Georgian PM Nika Gilauri also made a positive evaluation of the Russian-Georgian agreement. “We had very concrete demands regarding Russia’s WTO entry, and are delighted that the document proposed by the Swiss protects our interests. First, Swiss monitors will monitor the cargo trade between the two countries and secondly there will be similar trade regimes between the entire Georgian territory and Russia. The third factor is that information about trade between Russia and the breakaway regions will be more transparent,” said PM Gilauri to Parliament recently

For his part, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev said that Russia “is ready to accept some of the compromise ideas” proposed by Switzerland, which mediated WTO talks between Russia and Georgia. Asked directly what terms, in particular on trade monitoring, Russia had agreed to, Medvedev told journalists on the sidelines of the Summit of the Group of 20 in Cannes: “These are technical issues. I can confirm what our negotiator has already said.”

The international community, which has recently become extremely interested in Russia’s WTO membership, is also satisfied with the achieved agreement. “The United States applauds the announcement that the Governments of Russia and Georgia have come to agreement on an arrangement for monitoring trade between their two countries,” said the US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso welcomed “the announcement of the agreement”, adding that Russia’s WTO accession would be “to everyone’s advantage.” He said that “The EU in this regard, appreciates the flexibility shown by both Georgia and Russia to find a compromise on a highly complex issue and encourages both parties to overcome the very last technical hurdles in order to formalize the deal...We will also continue our important work towards political association and economic integration with Georgia, including the initiative to form a Comprehensive Free Trade Area.”

The EU has yet to announce when it will launch talks on the "deep and comprehensive" free trade (DCFTA) agreement with Georgia. The protracted Russian-Georgian WTO talks hindered the start of negotiations between EU and Georgia regarding FTA. Now Georgian officials hope hoping the talks will be launched before the end of this year.

Baroso also expressed readiness, if requested by both sides of the WTO agreement, of Europe's contribution to the implementation of the agreement. “The EU now looks forward to seeing Russia’s WTO accession finalized, with a view to reaching a consensus decision at the WTO Ministerial Council meeting on 15-17 December in Geneva,” he added. Next, Georgian and Russian delegations will be negotiating over Russia’s accession to the WTO initiated agreement on monitoring and customs administration on freight trade, on November 9.

This is the first win-win agreement achieved since the 2008 Russian-Georgian War. The fact that Russia agreed on the Swiss suggestions as to international monitors is to in some respect their recognition of Georgia's internationally recognized borders. The agreement will most probably bolster trade relations between the two countries, and provide an opportunity to resume Georgian exports, such as wine, to Russian markets. Russia was the last major economy that had not joined the WTO after China's accession in 2001.