Georgia has to puzzle out Russia –WTO deal
14 October, 2010
Georgia has to puzzle out Russia –WTO deal

Georgia will vote for Russia’s enrollment at the World Trade Organization only if Russia allows Georgia to restore its control over customs check-points located within the territories of Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and so called South Osetia [Samachablo] bordering with Russia.


Georgia still sticks to its position toward Russia’s possible enrollment within the World Trade Organization (WTO), but puts its statements in milder terms after the recent visit of Georgian Primer to US. On October 5, 2010 [prior Nika

Gilauri, Prime Minister of Georgia left to US] press speaker of Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, announced that Georgia and its president do not change position [to withdraw Georgia’s consent on Russia’s WTO membership] till Russia meets demands of Georgian side.
Georgia is the single blot on the landscape hampering Russia to join the long-awaited WTO membership at the moment. Russia has already secured consent of its key challenger, the US, having blocked Russia’s WTO membership for years. Russia is knocking at the WTO door starting 1993 and only this year it achieved agreement in all issues with the US.

 


William Burns, the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affair, reported to Interfax news agency on September 13, 2010 that Russia has never been as close to WTO membership as now, that US and Russia are supposed to complete bilateral negotiations on all issues by September 30, and that US will help Russia to get through multi-lateral negotiations [obligatory procedures of WTO membership] so as to enable Russia to enroll WTO at last.
But to join WTO Russia needs votes of all WTO member-countries including Georgia, its southern neighbor that withholds with its consent due to political tension with Russia. Russia upholds separatist regimes Georgian breakaway republics hampering Georgian side to control customs check-points within disputed territories bordering with Russia. In 2006 Russia imposed a trade embargo on Georgian product, occupied Georgian territories during August war of 2008 Russia and acknowledged sovereignty of Abkhazia and so called South Osetia after the war.
Georgia having required restoration of its control at the customs check-points in exchange of its consent to Russia’s WTO membership before 2006 enhanced the list of requirements gradually along with aggravated relationships with Russia. Demilitarization of its territory, lifting trade embargo, and repatriation of IDPs were added to the list of requirements. But customs-check points remain as the key and permanent demand.
On October 1st, 2010 presidents of Russia and US [having a telephone call] announced of successful completion of negotiations between US and Russia stressing on doubtless enrolment of Russia within WTO in 2011, and indirect bargain between Georgia and Russia [based on information war actually] resumed. Georgian government assures that there is no official talk between Georgia and Russia over solving the WTO issue. Instead each side makes official statements respective the issue and communicates via press. Georgian political and economic analysts believe the WTO veto is the last tool to Georgia to crackdown on Russia so as to force it to acknowledge Georgia’s territorial integrity. Therefore the milder statements of Gilauri made in the interview with the Associated Press on October 8, 2010 [after meeting with Hilary Clinton] made Georgian analysts somewhat obsessed that Georgia very likely yield positions in favor to Russia.


“We are not against Russia’s enrollment at WTO, because this organization will make Russia more civilized and the civilized Russia is in our interests. However it may happen only if Russia meets Georgian demand and allows Georgia to restore control over customs check points at Georgian-Russian borders  - this is the very statement  Gilauri told Associated Press,” Nika Mchedlishvili, Press Speaker of Gilauri told Georgian Journal. “If Russia becomes WTO member it is handy to Georgia for we can export our goods to Russia [WTO regulation prohibits trade embargos among its member-countries].”
Georgian political and economic analysts think that “not against” means a granted consent in fact, and agree that Georgian government has no way out actually rather than be in line with the international community that appears willing to see Russia within WTO. But they believe this consent must be based on compromises that Russia should make.
“Most probably they [Georgia and Russia] have achieved some agreement and Russia will go on some compromise otherwise Georgian government would have not given any consent,” Davit Narmania, an economic analyst told Georgian Journal.
Levan Kalandadze, another economic analyst, appears less optimistic. He fears that the recent comments of Gilauri include a granted consent while Russia’s position on Georgian demands is not clear and there is no hint that Russia intends to meet Georgian demands. 
WTO regulation obliges member-countries to acknowledge and observe economic borders of each other. And if Russia allows Georgia to control its customs check-point located at the territories of breakaway republic it means that Russia acknowledges territorial integrity of Georgia and automatically abolishes sovereignty of Abkhazia and so called South Osteia sealed officially by the Kremlin. Kalandadze fears that Russia will never go on this controversial step, and Gilauri’s recent comments mean an automatic consent for Georgian government could not resist international political will to have Russia within WTO.


“I do not expect that WTO membership can make Russia more civilized, therefore Georgia should get firm guarantees that Russia will meet its demands before it votes pro for Russia at WTO. The word order “we are not against” automatically means we give consent, while nobody on Russian side came out and said anything meaning that Russia yields its positions toward Georgia. Very likely Georgian government could not resist international will; otherwise it might lose political support of EU and US been interested to see Russia at WTO. Losing of international political support means reduction of economic support while Georgia is heavily indebted [by foreign debt] and depends on international financial institutions’ loans, ” Kalandadze told Georgian Journal.


Mchedlishvili counters that “we are not against” never means an automatic consent and Georgia will vote pro to Russia only if it meets Georgian demands. Soso Tsintsadze, a political scientist, believes Georgia’s consent to Russia at WTO is a matter of honor and Georgia will lose rather gain political scores if grants its consent to Russia with no compromise in return.
“Georgia can veto Russia at WTO and it must use this lever to force Russia to go on compromises for Russia is very much interested in WTO membership. If Georgia agrees to vote for Russia at WTO and Russia will not go on any compromise, it will be a lost game at both local and international policy. On the one hand local oppositionist parties will never forgive it to our government and may unlash a serious tide of discontent. On the other hand it means that we are a marionette of US and have no dignity that undermines our international reputation. Any state even the weakest one has a dignity and if it loses this thing it loses much more from moral point of view at international and internal politics alike.” Tsintsadze elaborated.


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