Georgia hopes to conclude a trade deal with Moscow by Thursday next week, the last big hurdle in Russia’s 18-year-old bid to join the WTO, Interfax news agency quoted a Georgian negotiator as saying yesterday.
“Everything should reach its conclusion ... by Nov. 10,” Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergi Kapanadze was quoted as saying in Tbilisi, referring to the date of a WTO working group meeting.
Georgia, which like all WTO members can block another country’s accession, had withheld support for Russian entry before proposing a bilateral trade deal last month.
The two countries fought a brief war in 2008 and have not resumed diplomatic relations since then.
Moscow’s top negotiator said late on Wednesday that Russia had agreed to the compromise trade deal with Georgia, but gave few details of the agreement.
An agreement on terms before the working group meeting would enable WTO trade ministers to approve Russia’s accession at a conference to be held in Geneva on Dec. 15.
WTO entry would make Russia’s US$1.9 trillion economy, the biggest outside the 153-member club, more attractive to investors and cement Russia’s integration into the world economy, two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Entry would then need to be approved by the Russian parliament and would be a victory for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is almost certain to return to the presidency next March and has long sought Russian membership.
Russia’s WTO accession would be the biggest step in world trade liberalization since China joined a decade ago and it would send a signal to companies and investors that Russia is starting to move closer to a rules-based system of doing business.