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US hopeful Georgia will not block Russian WTO entry

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, October 21
After the joint meeting on October 20, Lawrence Summers, the economic adviser to the US President Barak Obama, and the First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Igor Shuvalov expressed their hopes to the Russian media that Georgia will not be opposed to Russia’s integration to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Explaining that the argumentations between Georgia and Russia concerning the customs service issues in Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been out of the US competence, Summers spoke of the necessity of finding solutions for promoting Russia’s integration to WTO which would be acceptable for all the WTO member countries including Georgia.

In its attempts to gain WTO membership since 1993, Russia has been vetoed by Georgia for violating its obligations towards the Government of Georgia. After 17 years of negotiations, Russia is still outside the WTO, which regulates trade between its 153 member states. Stressing the progress being made in the process of Russia’s integration to WTO, Summers encouraged the Russian authorities that there are practically no unsolved issues between the sides except for the documentation necessary for approving Russia into the WTO in about twelve-months' time.

However, the attitude of the Georgian Government remains unchanged. According to the information provided by Manana Manjgaladze, the Spokesperson of the President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia cannot approve of Russia’s integration to WTO until Russia fulfills the obligations imposed by the Georgian side regarding a variety of issues which are still unsolved between the sides.

Doubting the “solutions” considered by the US, the economical analyst Giorgi Kalandadze stressed that what is acceptable for the US may not be acceptable for Georgia. “The nearer you have your enemy, the easier it is to control it. Georgia should stop making noises with its heels and start using the diplomatic lever,” the analyst said explaining the various political and economic advantages Georgia would enjoy upon Russia’s integration to the WTO and the necessity of making a “deal”.

Kalandadze said that by receiving WTO membership, Russia will have to obey the organizational rules in free trading which would mean that the country will not have any legal basis for blocking Georgian produce from their market. “But Russia is a unique country and we shouldn’t have any illusions that it will fully support the WTO regulations concerning economic cooperation just like the other international norms and obligations,” the analyst told the media.

Political analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili found it difficult to understand the exact meaning of the “solutions” suggested by the economic adviser to the US President. “The Georgian Government is facing a difficult choice. It is hard to say whether they will take their words back about vetoing Russia’s integration to WTO or not. The US must also be aware that the Georgian side won’t vote for Russia unconditionally. The US, as well as all the other WTO member countries, has to respect the organizational regulations,”. Wondering what he had actually meant under the “solution”, Tsiskarshvili suggested that Lawrence Summers should be more specific about the issue.