Monday, December 19, 2011

Russia Gains WTO Membership

The World Trade Organization officially welcomed Russia as a member Friday, bringing the country's 18-year accession process to an end.  Russia now has 220 days to ratify official WTO documents, and will become a full-fledged member 30 days after ratification. Russia's final hurdle to membership was removed last month when it resolved its dispute with Georgia (which was blocking Russia's entry into the organization) over monitoring trade on the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Another major barrier that had long hampered Russia's accession to the WTO was intellectual property violations, with pirated software and DVDs being available in kiosks and marketplaces across the country and via the Internet.  With its accession to the WTO, Russia must combat web sites with domestically located servers that distribute content illegally and "investigate and prosecute companies that illegally distribute objects of copyright or related rights," the WTO said on its web site last month.  Medvedev promised cooperation on intellectual property and other trade issues, and lauded the country's accession to the WTO "[as] a result of long, difficult negotiations" that will be beneficial for Russia and other member states.  Among other things, Russia's entry into the WTO opens up the country's economy of almost $2 trillion to foreign companies and is widely expected to boost the country's economic growth and attract investment.

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