The World Trade Organization (WTO) [official website] admitted the Russian Federation [press release] as its 156th member on Wednesday, bringing to a close accession negotiations that began in June 1993. The lower house of the Russian parliament ratified [JURIST report] the WTO accession package protocol [WTO materials] in July, clearing the way for Russia's membership in the global trading system after 19 years of hardline negotiations. Under the terms of accession protocol Russia will lower its import tariffs to 7.8 percent while opening up telecommunications markets and 10 other specific investment sectors. World Bank [official website] economists have estimated that WTO accession will grow Russia's economy by USD 49 billion per year over the midterm, about three percent of GDP, and about USD 162 billion per year over the long term [Bloomberg report]. The WTO also announced that it has admitted the Pacific island country of Vanuatu [CIA World Factbook materials], which will accede as the 157th WTO member on Friday. Before WTO accession Russia represented the world's largest non-member economy at USD 1.6 trillion. The WTO is an organization which aims to promote the liberalization of international trade, and over 95 percent of world trade takes place within the WTO framework.
Last month Kambiz Behi of Mostafavi & Associates and Edsel Tupaz [corporate profile] of Tupaz & Associates argued that the admittance of the Russian Federation into the WTO will create stronger economic relations [JURIST comment] with the US, as Russian WTO membership would free the US Congress to continue pursuing efforts to promote human rights and the rule of law independent trade relations with Russia, which would be established under WTO regulations. Just last month, for example, Congress approved a bill to sanction Russian officials [JURIST report] who were linked to the death of a Russian lawyer. In April Anna Heatherington, an LLM candidate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, analyzed the barriers to Russia's WTO membership [JURIST comment], noting that within the Russian Federation opposition to WTO membership exists primarily in the non-energy sectors, and especially from the agricultural sector, which is largely unprepared to compete in a global market. An additional point of concern has been Russia's inability to fully protect intellectual property (IP) rights, as most IP legislation is relatively new and the Russian courts lack experience and competency in IP areas.