News Column

EU Calls on Russia to Live Up to 'Spirit' of WTO Reform

Dec 5, 2012

Russia has failed to live up to the "spirit of open, competitive markets" since joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) earlier this year, the EU's top trade official charged Wednesday.

"Three months have now passed (since Russia's WTO accession) and I must say that the picture is, if anything, less promising than it was then," EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told members of the European Parliament, according to a draft speech.

De Gucht praised an ambitious reform blueprint unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin that promises new jobs in high-tech industries, a 50-per-cent increase in productivity and a reduction of barriers to doing business in Russia by 2020.

But he also said there had been "several examples of recent action by the government that present a less encouraging outlook."

"In these areas - far from using its new membership of the WTO as a tool for broader reform - Russia is not even meeting its commitments," De Gucht said.

Specifically, De Gucht criticized a recycling levy that increases the price of imported cars, Russia's import bans on slaughter pigs and on live animals from Europe, a unilateral increase in tariffs on imported goods and burdensome procedures for wood exports.

He said the European Union wanted to "negotiate our way to a solution," warning however that "if that does not prove possible we are most certainly prepared to use all the legal avenues at our disposal."

"Since Russia's accession, that includes dispute settlement at the WTO," De Gucht said, adding that the EU had been delivering this message to its Russian counterparts for several months.

"Every day we do not have a solution is a day our companies lose money, putting jobs at risk for European people, at a time when we absolutely cannot afford to lose them," De Gucht said.

He said Russia was a crucial EU trading partner, with bilateral trade in goods worth more than 300 billion euros (392 billion dollars) and trade in services worth 40 billion euros.

Their economic ties would feature at the next EU-Russia summit on December 21, he added.

Russia ended more than 18 years of negotiations with the WTO last year and formally joined the world trade body in August.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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