The JOURNAL of COMMERCE ONLINE
The United States and Russia on Monday signed a bilateral market access agreement that puts Moscow one step closer to joining the World Trade Organization.
The deal, signed by Russian Minister of Trade and Economic Development German Gref and U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab during a gathering of Pacific Rim countries in Hanoi, opens the door for entry into the WTO by Russia, the largest economy still outside the 149-member trade body.
"I am pleased that we have concluded this important agreement in connection with Russia's WTO accession negotiations," Schwab said in a statement. "This is a strong and far-reaching commercial agreement that meets the high standards of President Bush's market-opening trade agenda and moves Russia closer to full integration into the global, rules-based trading system. "
Gref said that Russia had pledged to cut import tariffs on a range of goods including aircraft, computer technology, agriculture and machinery.
The pact also includes enforcement of intellectual property rights. Pirated films, music and software in Russia cost U.S. companies nearly $1.8 billion in 2005.
Russia must complete the bilateral agreements it has agreed to with 57 countries before it can join the WTO. Gref said he expected that process to be completed by the middle of next year.
Washington must establish normal trade relations with Moscow before the U.S. can trade with Russia under a WTO agreement. That means Congress would still have to pass legislation removing Russia from the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, which ties Russia's trade status to whether the country is allowing Jews to freely leave the country.
It is unclear whether the newly elected Democrat-controlled Congress will be as receptive to free-trade deals as its Republican predecessor when it convenes in January.