Following eighteen years of complex negotiations, Russia has become a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This long-awaited moment marks the entry of the last remaining large non-WTO economy into the international rules-based trade system.
Russia has traditionally been an important export destination for EU food and drink products and remains the European Union’s second largest foreign market after the United States. However, despite substantial trade flows (exports worth Eur7.2 billion in 2011) and the existing level of direct investment worth billions of Euros, the Russian market until now has remained outside of the prevailing multilateral trade system.
Welcoming the development, the President of FoodDrinkEurope, Jesus Serafín Perez, says: “The accession of Russia to the World Trade Organisation is a welcome development for the world economy and for Europe’s food and drink industry. Increased transparency and reduced barriers to trade between Europe and Russia will open up new opportunities for Europe’s food business, stimulating some much needed growth in our economy at present.”
Living up to its WTO membership commitments, Russia should ensure that its food-related legislation develops in conformity with the Agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, as well as with other requirements of WTO law (eg non-discrimination and national treatment principles). Europe’s food and drink operators look forward to new opportunities that are unfolding in the Russian market, and welcome the expected increase in transparency in trade related policy planning in Russia and the future Eurasian Economic Union.
Other noteworthy benefits are a planned gradual reduction in the average tariff ceiling for agricultural products from 13.2% to 10.8%, the expected opening of tariff quotas for some agri-food products and the introduction of bilateral consultations with the EU on envisaged export restrictions on agricultural commodities.
European food and beverage manufacturers also welcome the efforts being taken by the Russian Government to simplify and facilitate customs procedures, stimulate innovation and infrastructure modernisation and further develop country’s investment climate.
WTO membership is expected to be a powerful catalyst for efficient growth and modernisation in EU-Russia trade relations for the benefit of all partners. Welcoming Russia as the 156th WTO member, FoodDrinkEurope hopes for a new balance of interests within the Organisation and for Russia’s constructive role in advancing the complex multilateral negotiating process.