Russia’s WTO Accession Hailed As Sign Of Commitment To Multilateralism
By Rachel Marusak Hermann for Intellectual Property Watch on 16/12/2011 @ 5:18 pm
The World Trade Organization formally approved Russia’s bid to join the trade body today. The agreement concludes 18 years of negotiations and is seen as a one of the major successes of the WTO’s Eighth Ministerial Conference being held from 15-17 December.
Calling the conclusion of Russia’s accession negotiations a “historic moment,” WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said the agreement helps to strengthen multilateralism. According to the director general, with Russia’s membership, the WTO will cover 97 percent of world trade.
Russia’s government has six months from today to approve their accession package. The country will become an official member one month from their national approval. Countries’ statements during Russia’s accession carried a much more positive tone compared to the morose attitude that reigned during the conference opening session.
The economic and financial crisis weighed heavily on international economic and trade ministers as ministerial conference opened 15 December. Thus far powerless to slow global growth and contracted trade, ministers called for countries to reinforce their commitment to multilateralism and to resist the temptation of protectionism.
It’s a call that is even more urgent as the organisation remains mired in the stalled Doha Development Round negotiations. In his opening statement , Lamy did not hesitate to say that so far member states had “failed to amend the WTO rule-book to make global trade fairer and more open” and called members to “stand up for the values of multilateralism.”
“The multilateral trading system is at a crossroads,” he said. “Either it advances in the spirit of shared values and enhanced cooperation, or we will face a retreat from multilateralism, and this will be at our own peril. Waiting for better times will simply not suffice.”
From Brazil and Chile to China and Canada, reaffirmed commitments to multilateralism and promises to resist protectionism were recurrings message in countries’ opening statements. But, as a delegate from a developing country told Intellectual Property Watch, “Everyone agrees with this principle. The problems start as soon as you get into the details.”
This was seen even in how countries define their commitment to these fundamental values. About 50 developed and developing countries, including the European Union, the United States, Chile and Colombia, announced their pledge  against protectionism during a press conference that followed the opening plenary session. In a press statement, these WTO members promised to “exercise maximum restraint in implementing measures that may be considered to be consistent with WTO provisions if they have a significant protectionist effect.”
A promise that seemed at odds with a provision of the Friends of Development Ministerial Declaration. The group, which includes the African Union, the Least Developed Countries, Brazil, China, and India, also promised their resolve against protectionism, however, only “provided there is full recognition of a Member’s ability to use WTO-consistent measures to achieve its legitimate objects of growth, development and stability.”
As WTO members struggle to work together and to assert the organisation’s relevance, the accession of four new members this week is being hailed as one of the major successes taking place during this ministerial. The addition of Russia, Montenegro, Samoa and Vanuatu will take membership to 157 countries.
Director of the WTO Accessions Division Chiedu Osakwe told journalists that the conclusion of these negotiations could be seen as a “vote of confidence” in the organisation and in the rules of law and trade. He said that the accession of Russia is a “major prize” as the country is the only remaining G-20 country that is not a WTO member.
Some concerns have been raised regarding the country’s capacity to enforce intellectual property rights. In response to such concerns, Osakwe said that substantial progress has been made in this area. “Russia has enacted a whole set of laws and regulations at the customs level for intellectual property rights and they have also made clear cut enforcement rules with penalties for violations.”
Another agreement being applauded during this ministerial is the approval of the revised Government Procurement Agreement. After 10 years of negotiations, members concluded an agreement before the conference began. The agreement provides greater procurement coverage to include entities not covered before and is said to be worth up to $1 billion in government procurement contracts.
Although intellectual property rights issues are not taking centre stage during this Ministerial, some key IP-related topics are on the agenda (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 14 December 2011 ). According to sources, extensions on the deadline for least-developed countries to enforce TRIPS and the moratorium on non-violation complaints under TRIPS are expected to be extended without resistance.
Food security dispute
Disagreement over food security has garnered attention as another statement was issued today  in the back-and-forth between the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier de Schutter and the WTO Director General was issued today. In response to Lamy’s letter, which defended the multilateral trading system in regard to food security concerns, De Schutter called the WTO’s vision of food security outdated.
Article printed from Intellectual Property Watch: http://www.ip-watch.org
URL to article: http://www.ip-watch.org/2011/12/16/russias-wto-accession-hailed-as-sign-of-commitment-to-multilateralism/
URLs in this post:
 opening statement: http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/sppl_e/sppl212_e.htm
 their pledge: http://international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/wto-omc/pledge-engagement.aspx?lang=eng&view=d
 IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 14 December 2011: http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2011/12/14/issues-of-interest-to-ip-community-abound-at-wto-ministerial/
 statement was issued today: http://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/4037B929F6DD989DC1257968003E8853?OpenDocument