New York: Russia may enter the World Trade Organization, or WTO, by the end of the year, ending more than a decade of negotiations and helping sustain economic growth in the world’s largest energy exporter in case the price of crude falls, an adviser to the Russian government said.
Talks in progress: OAO Severstal’s Alexei Mordashov heads Russia’s working group on WTO accession.
“There are good chances that Russia may be admitted this year, and I hope so,” said Alexei Mordashov, who heads Russia’s working group on WTO accession, which is in close contact with Russian government negotiators. He spoke in an interview in New York on Tuesday.
“We should expect a huge positive outcome from entering the WTO, because that would improve the business climate a lot,” Mordashov said.
Russia, the biggest economy outside the WTO, finished bilateral talks with individual WTO countries and is now completing a final agreement with the trade organization as a whole. Outstanding issues include agriculture, export duties and intellectual property rights.
Mordashov, 42, is the 18th richest person in the world and the second wealthiest in Russia, according to the latest list of billionaires released by Forbes on 6 March, with a fortune of $21.2 billion (Rs90,736 crore).
Mordashov is chief executive of OAO Severstal, Russia’s largest steel maker, and said he owns about 82% stake in the company.
“These days, Russia is one of the most open economies,” Mordashov said. “Russia doesn’t restrict its imports, and there won’t be any negative outcome from the WTO membership.”
The country still has to resolve some outstanding issues, such as subsidizing agriculture, Mordashov said.
Russia is in its 10th year of economic growth, boosted by record global oil prices. The country’s $1.4 trillion economy has enjoyed average annual economic growth of more than 7% since 2000.
The economy expanded by 8.5% in the first quarter, the second fastest pace since 2000, as companies invested in their businesses to keep up with demand for consumer goods and new apartments.
The European Union (EU) wants to see further economic “liberalization” in Russia and see the country join WTO, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said on 19 June. Russia is the biggest supplier of natural gas to EU.
Mandelson said 90% of the work on Russia’s accession has been negotiated. Russia’s export duties, especially on wood, were mentioned as issues that need to be resolved in the EU statement last week.
Rob Urban in New York and Alex Nicholson and Sebastian Alison in Moscow contributed to this story.