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Russia joins WTO after marathon talks

Russia has finally been admitted into the World Trade Organization after 18 long years of negotiation. The move binds the country into the global economy, two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russian dolls representing Russian leaders

Accession talks began after the fall of the Soviet Union

The World Trade Organization admitted Russia as its newest member on Friday, giving a boost to its biggest trading partner, the European Union.

"This result of long and complex talks is good both for Russia and for our future partners," President Dmitry Medvedev said in a message to a WTO ministerial meeting in Geneva, where Russia's membership was formally approved.

Russia's $1.9-trillion economy (1.5 trillion euros) was previously the largest economy outside the WTO. It was also the last member of the group of 20 leading economies (G20) to join, after China gained membership in 2001.

The 153-member organization sets legally binding rules for international trade and mediates disputes.

Boost for Europe

The accession is likely to stimulate greater and more diversified trade between Russia and the rest of the world. It will also help reduce the country's reliance on energy exports.

The deal is expected to increase EU exports by some 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) a year, EU trade officials say. Russians will be able to buy European-made goods at far lower prices and to sell oil and gas more efficiently.

The 27-nation EU bloc is Russia's biggest trading partner for agriculture, fuel, mining and manufacturing. The EU buys more than half of Russia's exports, including the fossil fuels that keep Europe running. Russia, in turn, is the third-biggest customer for EU exports, after the US and China.

8. WTO-Ministerkonferenz in der Schweiz, Genf 2011

Russia will become the 154th member of the World Trade Organization

Lengthy negotiation process

The final stumbling block to Russia's accession was removed earlier this year after the Swiss brokered a deal between Russia and Georgia. Georgia had tried to block Russia's WTO entry since the two countries fought a war in August 2008.

Russia's negotiations have been long and tortuous. Russia originally applied to join the organization that later became the WTO back in 1993 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the last 12 years, talks have undergone a series of reversals, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in power.

"I just happen to know a few things about marathons - the last mile is the worst, the toughest," WTO head Pascal Lamy told a ceremony marking the occasion on Friday evening. "The best moment in a marathon is where you cross the finishing line."

Russia now has six months to ratify its membership and would officially become a member 30 days later.

Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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