First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov with President Vladimir

Putin: Shuvalov blames the U.S. for Russia failure to join the WTO,

but the facts suggest otherwise.



Gazeta, Russia

Stop Blaming America for Russian Shortcomings


"The same external enemies appear both as an explanation for domestic problems and for failures in the international arena. And the most often used is a cherished combination of three letters: USA."




Translated By Alexander Sviridovsky


January 27, 2010


Russia - Gazeta - Original Article (Russian)

The Russian government's habit of not answering for its actions inside the country is being continued in foreign policy. Moreover, the same external enemies appear both as an explanation for domestic problems and for failures in the international arena. And the most often used is a cherished combination of three letters: USA.


First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov (photo, left), during a working meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, unexpectedly accused the United States of a sudden deceleration of talks on Russia's accession into the World Trade Organization. "The main differences we have with the U.S. are on well-known issues. They haven’t gotten worse or better," Shuvalov reported to Putin. Without expanding on these comments, he noted that on his level, the Russian side is ready to suggest certain solutions to the remaining issues. "Unfortunately, so far from the side of our American partners, there have been no steps taken to allow us to look for such solutions. We have yet to receive any suggestions about how to proceed,” said Shuvalov.


Meanwhile in June of last year, when Vladimir Putin announced that talks on joining the WTO would be conducted by the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Moscow deliberately slowed down and radically and unilaterally re-formatted talks on the WTO. At the same time, Kazakhstan was in the initial stages of WTO talks and Belarus had conducted none at all. This decision naturally caused bewilderment among WTO member states; the organization had no precedent for the collective membership of a multinational entity. At the time, the Customs Union, which is headed by longtime Russian negotiator Maxim Medvedkov of the Ministry of Economic Development, hadn't even been created. Even now, although it formally came into being on January 1, 2010, a report from this same Shuvalov said, “the most basic questions of the functioning of the association aren't resolved; for example, the sharing of customs duties among the three countries and the issuance licenses for importing of a number of commodities into Russia.”


These imports were blocked precisely because of the Customs Union. Russian importers had their old licenses annulled and didn't receive new ones.



But even if the Customs Union functioned like clockwork, WTO accession still imposes obligations that exceed the bounds of customs rules - in particular, access to the country by foreign financial institutions, the level of direct state subsidies to individual industries, and the fight against piracy.  


Russia's complaints about the United States would still be understandable if, after Putin's WTO countermove, Russian authorities hadn't made conflicting statements.


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Meanwhile, President Dmitry Medvedev has at least twice said that Russia may return to direct negotiations with the WTO, including at the G8 summit in the Italian city of L'Aquila.




Therefore, Shuvalov's report to Putin, arguing that the Customs Union has created a unified negotiating platform is, to put it mildly, unconvincing.


"We've already explained that a customs union is in no manner inconsistent with WTO rules and norms," said First Deputy Prime Minister Shuvalov However, there has never been a statement from WTO headquarters that such a view is held by the organization itself.


Moreover, the chief of the customs union, Maxim Medvedkov, has also repeatedly spoken out in the same spirit, that Russia may use all forms of negotiation (in other words, direct negotiations as well).


After stirring up this pot of porridge, which, in the United States, has logically been interpreted as a cover for Russian reluctance to join the WTO (or at least Putin's), Russia's government is now trying to pin the blame for the frozen talks on others. Shuvalov told Putin that, as soon as the U.S. sends a proposal regarding further negotiations, "we'll take corresponding steps to clarify our position in the negotiating process.”


But what American proposals is Russia waiting for if it can't even agree on the transfer of energy with its partner in the Customs Union, Belarus - and when Russian officials continue to issue diametrically opposed versions of Moscow's initial negotiating positions?


Meanwhile, there is a well-known sequence and logic to the exercise of Russian power. As president, Vladimir Putin approved the basic but unspoken principle of supreme power in Russia: it is faultless and can do no wrong. Therefore, the economic crisis in Russia is officially considered “global," terrorism is always "international," and as for the failure of negotiations with the WTO, of course, it is the “irresponsible” United States that must answer.    



And of course, we can't admit that Russia is the one powdering the brains of its partners [pulling the wool over their eyes] in the talks, or that a decade and a half of negotiations with the WTO has been in vain.



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US January 29, 8:19pm]


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