|Conference Chairman Olusegun Aganga, right, made the announcement at a WTO meeting in Geneva [Reuters]|
The World Trade Organization has given its second and final approval for Russia’s membership in the trade body after a record 18-year quest to join.
The 153-nation global trade body approved by consensus Russia’s application for membership on Friday, giving a boost to the ailing economy of its biggest trading partner, the European Union.
“The ministerial conference so agrees,” said Olusegun Aganga, Nigeria’s Trade Minister, who is chair of the eighth WTO ministerial conference. The decision was taken mid-way during the three-day meeting in Geneva.
The Russian parliament will have up to June 15 next year to ratify the accord and bring it into force.
The deal is expected to quickly increase EU exports by some 4bn euros ($5.45bn) a year.
Under the deal, Russians can buy European-made goods at far lower prices and sell its oil and gas more efficiently.
Moscow’s lead negotiator Maxim Medvedkov said earlier he expected the deal to be ratified “early next year”.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a statement: “This result of long and complex talks is good both for Russia and for our future partners.”
“For us, the end of these negotiations is not the finish but the start,” Elvira Nabiullina, Russia’s economy minister, told the talks.
In a speech, Pascal Lamy, the WTO director-general said: “This is clearly a historic moment for the Russian Federation and the rule-based multilateral system after an 18-year marathon.”
“The accession of Russia to the WTO will cement the integration of the Russian Federation into the world economy and will bring greater certainty to business operators and trading partners,” he said.
Until now, Russia has been the only member of the Group of 20 leading economies still outside the WTO.
Russia applied to join the trade body in 1993 but talks dragged on and its brief war with Georgia in 2008 further delayed its application.
No other country has had to bargain so long before being granted entry. China was the previous record holder with 15 years of negotiations for membership.
Moscow cleared its last hurdle for WTO accession when it finally clinched in November a deal with last hold-out Georgia, which was able to veto any accession bid by virtue of its membership to the trade body.