EU pressures Georgia into allowing Russia’s WTO membership

Following Georgian protests against Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organization, the EU is threatening to complete the process without Tbilisi’s permission.

The ultimatum reportedly came from the EU foreign policy department’s top diplomat for Russia and Central Asia, Gunnar Wiegand, who visited Tbilisi on October 25, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The EU official stated that if Georgia does not change its position on Russia’s bid, the EU will make an exception to WTO rules, which require the full consent of all 153 member states in order to welcome a new member.

As required, Russia has already held successful negations with all WTO countries – aside from Georgia.

Both the US and EU removed the last roadblocks to Russia’s membership after Moscow agreed to change its rules on car assembly, the export of farm products and quotas for wood imports.

Tbilisi, however, pointed out that Russia “refuses to comply with the minimum of conditions required to obtain the WTO membership.” Among the “minimum requirements” are the changes to Russia’s positions on trade in the long-disputed “occupied territories,” Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russian officials argue that Georgia’s conditions have no relevance to the WTO.

Georgia broke diplomatic ties with Russia after the war of August 2008, when Russia recognized the independence of the former Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This past March, the two sides resumed negotiations on Russia’s WTO accession with the help of Switzerland.

Russia is currently the only large economy to remain outside of the WTO. The country first applied for membership in the WTO in December 1994. The number of its negotiating partners has kept growing through the years, and the latest working group had 58 members, making it the largest working group in the entire history of the WTO.

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