Posted by: bklunk | November 20, 2006

As Groucho Said, "I Would Not Join Any Club That Would Have Somebody Like Me As a Member.”

e-lam provides this one:

Russia Likely to Join the WTO

Russia on the Verge of Becoming a Member of the WTO

    This week, President Bush and Russian President Putin are scheduled to meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to finalize an agreement that would allow Russia to join the World Trade Organization. Why has it taken so long for Russia to join the WTO? The WTO isn’t an exclusive club, there are almost 150 countries are members including countries like Zimbabwe and Vietnam. So what has kept Russia from joining. Russia first started talks to try and join the WTO 13 years ago, but hasn’t gotten much progress done until the last couple of years. In 2004, Russia was thought to join the WTO after agreeing on trade negotiations with the European Union. They were set to join, but faced resistance from the United States. U.S. officials were concerned with agricultural inspections, financial institutions, and the issue of piracy. One part of the agreement between the U.S. and Russia is tax reduction, so trade with other nations will be less costly. One thing not in the agreement is the ability for foreign banks to become established in Russia.  The issue isn’t really an important one, but it highlights how Russia was able to resist some of America’s demands.

    From an International Relations student, I look at this as the expansion of free trade. Russia historically has been an opponent to capitalism and free trade. So I find it interesting that Russia has come full circle and opened itself to the world to free trade and become a part of the WTO.

Even before its Soviet period, Russia did not exactly pursue a capitlist mode of production.  If Russia joins this club, will it cause Russia to behave more like a “normal” state?


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  1. Well, under Putin, the economic situation has improved dramatically. From 1991 to 1999, the GDP contracted ~40% or so, and only rose once–very slightly–until ’99, when Putin took over. Russia still has a huge problem with the mafia. Russia historically was an opponnent of free trade and capitalism until avoiding them was no longer an option; Yeltsin’s plan for privatization, which was awfully corrupt, is no longer the main scheme in use, and Russia is looking towards a healthy economic future–if it can, as Putin has been trying to do, reestablish strong government control over a larger region, squeeze out (or at least diminish) the Russian mafia, and deal with the Chechens.

  2. I forgot to mention this in my above comment, but the collapse of the Soviet economy was the worst crash seen since the Great Depression, and death rates went up, life expectancy went down, per capita income was slashed, poverty skyrocketed, and the government, which had no idea how to run a market economy, lost a lot of control. Putin has gone a long way in turning Russia around.

    I’m curious, though; how has Russia (recently) not been behaving like a “normal” state?

  3. I find it surprising that the United States would all of a sudden stop their opposition to Russia becoming part of the WTO. The reason I say this is because Russian and the U.S. have drastically different approaches to putting economic sanctions on Iran because of their nuclear proliferation. Russia struck a deal with Iran to construct an $800 million Russian nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Iran. Russia will not support any sanctions that involve mention of this plant. However, both the United States and Europeans believe that there should be sanctions to stop the delivery of nuclear fuel to this plant. Therefore, since this conflict still has not been settled, I do not understand the United States change in stance to allow Russia to become part of the WTO. Perhaps the United States is doing this just to continue to expand its export markets? But I don not know the answer to this question.

  4. I don’t think Russia will behave more like a normal state after it enters the WTO. Russia, at least under Putin, seems to be doing whatever is best for Russia. Sometimes that is considered normal, democratic, and legal and sometimes it is considered unethical, anti-democratic, and illegal by the world community or at least some members of it. I think Putin cares little of what the rest of the world thinks of him as long as the decisions he makes are in the best interest of Russia. One example of a Russian action that I would consider abnormal is their influence in the Ukraine elections. They supported the pro-east candidate and used many tactics, some of which came under investigation by UN/US forces, to help him win. I know Putin was very disappointed that his guy lost in the second election even though seemingly everyone around the world and even the Ukraine Supreme Court recognized the first election as corrupt. Putin cared little about what everyone else thought or what was fair and just, only what the best result for Russia would be. I believe similar situations will arise in the WTO and Russia will act similarly.

  5. Two words: natural gas. Russia has the largest reserves of natural gas in the world, most of which is untapped. However, Russia is working on that as we speak, and recently kicked out some Western investor companies to help with the project (the reserves are miles off shore in icy, stormy waters). Bush wants to secure good relations with Russia to help secure deliveries of that gas to the U.S., and not China or India. Smart move in my opinion.

  6. I agree with meghan, where did the US oppisition end? how cna russia begin to act like a normal state if it continues to follow whatever rules suit it at the moment (i.e. nuclear plant in iran, not exactly in the US’s best intrest, but russia can inspect our crops and be dissatisfied can sombody please explain this to me?) but ben has a point with the natural gas theory, i mean who wouldnt want to open your economy when holding a product that is so highly valued in other parts of the world (like the US)

  7. Again, I’m forced to ask, how is Russia behaving like an abnormal state? So far everyone simply seems to be saying that Russia is acting in its own best interests, and that hardly seems abnormal.

  8. I do not think that Russia will become more of a normal state if it becomes a member of the WTO. Russia has never been your typical state. They have always done things their own way and I feel that they as a country have tries vary hard not to fit any sort of mold or follow any other state. Even back in World War I & II Russia always had their own attack and tactics. Event to this day President Putin is looking out for what is best for Russia. This would be in his decision to keep the oil industry in the hands of the government. I feel that by joing the WTO, Putin and the rest of Russia are doing what is in their best interest and will never conform to a normal state.

  9. I do not believe that Russia will behave anymore like a “normal” state then they already do. I have a similar question as to Frankie’s in his second response, and it is “who is to say what acting normal is even?” Does the US even look normal in the way we do things? I believe Russia is doing this for Russia’s own benefit though. Russia has always looked out for itself and done what’s best for them. Not a bad policy, you just don’t make to many friends in doing it that way. Russia is probably looking for the added respect that goes along with being in the WTO. Being in the WTO doesn’t not give them any added power really, just another ruling body to which they can take people to court. It is also a positive for them since they do not export much other then electricity and natural gas, which there are not to many limits on by the WTO. I believe that the US realizes that they cannot block out Russia for ever, so eventually they will have to recognize them as a trading partner. Why did they do it now, other than that the election has passed I have no clue as to why recognize them now. Although I’m pretty sure we had our reasons, they might just not be made public.

  10. I agree with Frankie in questioning the word “normal”. It connotes that one state is inherently right and another is wrong. Democracy is not necessarily right, but since that seems to be the way most of the world perceives normality, in this context Russia would fall in to the abnormal category. Although they claim to be democratic, Russia has proven that it has a long way to go to true democracy.
    Another way to look at Russia as abnormal would be to show that they are failing in many aspects of statehood. Is a failing state normal or abnormal? Russia is placed very high on the list of most corrupt states. They are listed high as a country with very little freedom of the press. There are several instances, just this semester, of murders of reporters and prominent figures opposing the government. There are also constant examples of torture in the Russian army. Russia’s behavior concerning Georgia has been bad, to say the least. The examples go on and on. I can’t in my Western, democratic frame of mind think that any of this is “normal”, but would it be different from another perspective? I hope that no matter who you are you believe that corruption, torture, murder, and discrimination are abnormal and wrong.
    But I understand where Frankie is coming from by questioning normality. It is normal for any state to do what is in its best interests. We all know the United States has its own best interests as its number one priority, so it is “normal” for Russia to do the same. What is not normal is the way they have gone about securing their interests and the internal problems that Russia seems to be ignoring.

  11. I was in shock to learn that Russia had not joined the WTO, like the blog said this is not an elite, or western club. While Russia’s history has not favored capitalism, with the fall of the Soviet Union one would have thought that Russia’s first move would have been to join the WTO. Since the fall of the Soviet Union it has been obvious to all that capitalism has been the best approach to strengthen the economy of Russia and with that it is hard to avoid joining the WTO. The choice behind joining the WTO now is interesting given that private oil firms have been failing back into the hands of the state under Putin. Russia’s course of action has never been ‘normal’ and I believe Russia’s move to join the WTO will be anything but.

  12. I tend to agree with Frankie G. What exactly has Russia been doing to consititue abnormality? Obviously Russia has had both economic and social problems in the past but how is this drastically different from the rest of the world? The real question seems to be whether or not Russia’s admission into the WTO will help their economic situation. Most answers seem to point to yes. Obviously Russia will benefit from entering the WTO by opening its markets to a broader group of people. If anything this will allow capitalism to flourish in Russia and bring them more in line with the world community.

  13. I tend to agree with the majority of the responses. I don’t see how Russia has been acting abnormally. With Russia joining the WTO they are only trying to expand their economy, help benefit their rapidly growing natural gas industry. This is a very good move for Russia in my eyes. For people to say that they have been acting abnormally far from the truth. After the Soviet Union fell Russia tried to do what was best for their people because there were tough times in Russia after the Soviet collapse. I’m not sure if this is what people are referring to when they say Russia is acting abnormally. President Putin sees a very beneficial boost for Russia’s economy and that’s why they are joining the WTO.

  14. Russia for the past several years after the fall of its communist government has been trying to pick up whatever pieces of its economy that it can. Joining the WTO right after the fall woulf have been impossible, the communist government was not interested in quality it was interested in quanity. Russia needed to step up and catch up with the rest of the states in the WTO in order to join. And after the fall, I’m pretty sure joining the WTO would have been one of the last things on their mind. The boost in their economy tended to come from within the state to begin with and then they moved onto oil and gas (that is why they are now a petrostate). I think joining the WTO is the logical choice now for Russia and will help their economy a lot at its current state.

  15. Going for something you want is not necessarily a bad thing. Its so true that Russia needed to catch up with everyone else in order to benefit and help the other countries in the WTO, and now that they’re on the right path, hopefully the only way they can go in terms of economic growth is up.

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