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ALDE Press Release: Membership of WTO is not a blank cheque for Russia in its trade relations with the EU

At the initiative of Silvana KOCH-MEHRIN (FDP, Germany) and KRISTIINA OJULAND (Reform Party, Estonia), the ALDE group held today  a seminar on the trade relationship between EU and Russia with the key participation of Pascal Lamy, General Director of the WTO, and Karel de Gucht, EU Commissioner for Trade.  Russia is the EU’s third largest trading partner.  In a resolution adopted during last October’s plenary session, the European Parliament stressed that its accession to the WTO should accelerate reforms in Russia, including the fight against corruption and application of the rule of law.

Silvana Koch-Mehrin said: “Russia is an important strategic partner. Intensifying economic relations is a mutual interest and WTO access is an important step in this regard. Although the opportunities are immense we are concerned by the non-respect by Russia of some of its WTO commitments. Instead of creating a better environment for potential investors, some recently introduced protectionist measures send very negative signals.”

Kristiina Ojuland added: “Russia’s WTO accession after 18 years of negotiations is definitely a step forward in terms of trade relations with the EU, but we must not be naive in thinking that this will solve all the existing problems. Russia is a big country and changes don’t come overnight, especially when there is no political will. I sincerely hope that Russia will stop implementing the protectionist measures and that it will comply with the agreed rules and obligations.”

Russia officially became the 156th member of the World Trade Organization on 22 August 2012. Russia is the EU’s third largest trading partner with bilateral merchandise trade of 308 billion euros in 2011. According to the WTO, the overall reduction of custom tariffs, especially in the automotive sector, will mean savings of 2.5 billion euros per year in import duties for European exporters and this reduction should boost EU exports to Russia to the sum of 3.9 billion euros. according to the Commission. In terms of services, Russia has made commitments on eleven sectors and 116 sub-sectors including telecommunications – where limiting foreign ownership to 49% would be eliminated four years after accession, and large distribution services where Russia would authorize, upon accession to the WTO, wholly foreign-owned enterprises to do business in the areas of wholesale, retail and franchising.

For more information, visit the ALDE Website.