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Tuesday, 06 December 2011 15:04

Negotiations on Russia’s membership to the WTO finally concluded in November after an 18-year long process that will culminate in formal approval by the entire membership of the WTO at a WTO ministerial conference on 15-17 December. As Russia’s largest trading partner with a 45.8% share of its overall trade in 2010 and its biggest source of foreign investment with 75% of the investment stock, the EU has played a critical role in ensuring Russian membership. Russia is the EU’s third largest trading partner after the US and China with an 8.6% share of EU trade in 2010. Total EU trade with Russia amounted to EUR244bn in 2010. For the EU therefore Russia’s accession to the WTO offers a number of benefits: Russian import tariffs would come down and there would be a limit on export duty levels for a list of essential raw materials; accession to the WTO will improve the overall business and investment climate in Russia as the country adopts international product standards and WTO rules in a number of areas such as customs procedures, licensing and intellectual property. These reforms would make the Russian economy more transparent and would increase foreign investment, giving a “major boost” to the economic relationship between the EU and Russia, according to Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade.