Thursday, March 29, 2012

World Bank on Russia and WTO

The World Bank in a Report in 2012 titled "The World Bank in Russia" has a separate chapter on the WTO and Russia wherein the opportunities for Russia after joining the WTO are discussed. 


The Report paints a rosy picture for Russia and projects gains in GDP, incomes, wages and productivity as a result of its WTO accession. Outlining the benefits Russia would experience on acceding to the WTO and impacts it would have sector-wise the Report concluded:
"WTO accession is a unique and important opportunity to move the country forward toward an outward-looking model of economic development. As Russia seeks to diversify and modernize its economy, how will it achieve its objectives?  The studies cited above indicate that Russia will reap substantial gains from WTO accession and that the benefits are widespread and will reduce poverty. The examples of fast growth or ― "development miracles" in the past half century, such as South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan (China), Chile, China and Mauritius, were all countries whose rapid growth was led by export growth. Import tariffs, however, act as a tax on exports and impede the movement toward and open economy or export led model of economic development.  In a business as usual scenario, concentrated forces who want protection in their sectors will lobby to defeat liberalization, while there are many who gain from liberalization, the gains are not concentrated and typically they do not lobby for liberalization. The uneven lobbying often leads to excessive protection compared to what is beneficial for the country.  WTO accession involves foreign business interests and foreign governments in the negotiations on the level of home protection. Then policy-makers at the highest levels of government must engage in the process, and the result is usually a broader and deeper set of reforms than could be achieved without the accession process. Ratification by Russia for the Protocol on its Accession to the WTO would thus be an important step in reform of the Russian economy.  It would be important to leverage the benefits that will be achieved from reforms as part of the WTO accession package with further steps to improve the investment and business climate. Diversification, modernization and growth will be all the stronger if WTO accession is complemented with improvements in the business climate for all firms doing business in Russia, Russian and foreign."
The FT blog has commented on this report here. An interesting point made in the conclusion is that "globalisation" has no lobbyists unlike "'concentrated" protectionism. Is this true? While domestic interests and impacts are more visible, is it correct to say that opening up one's economies is not guided by interests and pressures? Russia will have to deal with its accession to the WTO strategically. Apart from the commitments in the WTO Agreements, Russia would also have to abide by the commitments in its Accession protocol, which is specific to Russia. China, in the context of a challenge to its export restrictions, is facing a similar issue of commitments in it Accession protocol. Russia would have to balance domestic interests, play by international rules as well as gain from the benefits international trade has to offer. Domestic business interests will be both positively and negatively impacted.It would be a tight rope walk as sectors open up and the economy faces international competition. One would not be surprised to see Russia knocking the doors of the dispute settlement mechanism as well as being taken to the adjudication forum in the coming years. Membership in the WTO would bring with it benefits as well as serious challenges. Would Russia be able to seize the opportunity to uniquely benefit?

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