Espinel Comments on Efforts to Block Russia's Entry to WTO

Diplomatic efforts to block Russia's long-delayed entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) subsequent to its moving troops into Georgia could have adverse effects on American commercial interests, according to a Bloomberg article that quotes Professor Victoria Espinel, a former lead U.S. trade negotiator on intellectual property rights.

Russia is the only major economy excluded from the WTO, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has indicated he sees no value in upholding previous WTO accords.

"If Russia decides it is not sufficiently interested in the WTO, it's possible whatever efforts they have made on intellectual property rights will stagnate," said Espinel. She added that there is no sign Russia is backing off on its pledges on copyrights.

Russian Impasse at WTO Threatens U.S. Insurers, Farmers, Banks, Bloomberg, August 28, 2008. By Mark Drajem.

"Russian threats to cancel commitments made in a bid to join the World Trade Organization could hurt U.S. poultry farmers, recording labels, insurers, banks and other companies, industry officials said. The officials, fearing reduced access to the Russian economy, urged the Bush administration to revive the on-again, off-again negotiations to admit Russia to the global trade body.

"'Russia is a large country that matters,'said Michael Considine, director for Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 'It's better for everyone if they are in the same rules-based trading system as everyone else. This is the time for everyone to take a step back and refrain from any knee-jerk actions.'

"Diplomatic pressure to block Russia's entry into the WTO could backfire against U.S. commercial interests. Already this week, Russian officials threatened to cut import quotas for pork and poultry to the detriment of American producers.

"'They can do whatever they want if they are not in the WTO,' Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, said in an interview. 'That's my concern, and that's lots of people's concern.'

"Russia is the U.S. poultry industry's top export market.

"Since 2006 when Russia and the U.S. concluded bilateral talks, both sides have said Russia is close to gaining membership to the Geneva-based WTO. As talks dragged on, entry became more complicated.

"Delayed Membership

"'Russia has been saying it would be in the WTO by the end of the year for each of the past five years,' said David Christy, a lawyer at Miller and Chevalier in Washington. 'But they weren't close to joining even before they invaded Georgia.'"