Monday, February 13, 2012

Russia and the WTO

A piece by Abdur Chowdhury in the EastAsiaForum highlights the impact joining the WTO would have on the Russian economy.
"In the short run, reducing tariffs and other protective measures for import-sensitive industries, such as cars and aircraft, and opening up key financial service industries — banking and insurance — to foreign competition could lead to the loss of jobs in those areas. As such, the Russian government may need to provide unemployment insurance and other adjustment assistance. But globally competitive industries, such as the raw-material producers, could see international markets opening up and an increase in foreign investment as accession forces Russia to restructure its economy.
In the long run, evidence from economies that have gone through similar transitions suggests that trade liberalisation will lead to a more efficient Russian economy and better living standards for the average Russian citizen. New industries will probably emerge over time, helping to diversify the Russian economy.
Until now, Russia has been the largest and most populous country not party to the WTO. Russia’s accession will significantly expand the geographical coverage of WTO rules to all major economies, bringing a larger degree of stability and transparency to the international trading system. At the same time, Russia’s entry into the WTO would continue a trend in which, as the WTO becomes larger and more diverse, it becomes more difficult for that membership to reach a consensus on important issues. In addition, trade disputes between Russia and its trading partners will be brought to the WTO for resolution rather than being addressed bilaterally, adding to the WTO’s ever-growing caseload.
Still, to become a truly open economy, Russia will need to use WTO membership as a springboard for wider economic change. It still looks likely that Putin will be the one to face the tough realities of implementing WTO commitments, but he leads an elite that has long favoured protectionism and subsidy over serious reform. The long-term benefits of membership should nevertheless outweigh its initial costs. Russia will have to make courageous decisions on which industries are truly sustainable, and take measures to protect the population from the costs of adjustment."
It is well documented that China has benefitted tremendously from its membership of the multilateral body. However, China has pursued an aggressive domestic policy to take advantage of its accession to the WTO. It would be interesting to see what impact the WTO would have on the political and economic landscape of one of the world's largest trading partners.

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