As Russia Joins the WTO, Will U.S. Companies Be Shut Out?
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Today, Russia’s legislature — the State Duma — gave its final vote of approval to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). After completing some final paperwork and a 30-day waiting period, Russia will officially become a member of the WTO in mid-August.
Russia is by far the largest economy in the world that has yet to join the WTO, and doing so requires Moscow to further open its market to imports, safeguard intellectual property and investments, and strengthen the rule of law.
The result will be more U.S. exports and more American jobs. U.S. companies see huge potential in Russia, which boasts the ninth largest economy in the world and a growing middle class. Of the top 15 U.S. trading partners, Russia was the market where American companies enjoyed the fastest export growth last year (38%).
However, if Congress fails to approve Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR), Russia will be free to deny U.S. workers, farmers, and companies the full benefits of these reforms.
The competitive challenge for U.S. companies in the booming Russian market is already intense. Russia’s imports topped $395 billion last year, but U.S. companies accounted for just 4.5% of those sales. Moreover, the United States is the only country in the 155-member WTO that has not approved PNTR with Russia, so European, Canadian, and Chinese companies will enjoy a significant advantage over their U.S. competitors as they move to tap the Russian market:
- The European Union accounts for nearly half of all Russia’s total trade and nearly three-quarters of its inward foreign direct investment. The EU is already well positioned to leverage the benefits of Russia’s market opening as it joins the WTO and is committed to negotiating a “New Agreement” with Russia to replace its current Partnership and Co-operation Agreement and seek preferential access to the Russian marketplace.
- Canada’s International Trade Minister Ed Fast led a June 4-8 trade mission to Russia with Canadian firms from the building products and construction, aerospace, and mining sectors. According to Minister Fast, “Russia is a priority for Canada as we look to open new markets in fast-growing regions to create jobs and long-term prosperity for hard-working Canadians.” Like the EU, Canada is poised to receive the full benefits of Russia’s accession to the WTO immediately.
- China already accounts for 15.7% of Russian imports, or more than three times the U.S. share, according to the WTO. According to Russia’s chief WTO negotiator Maxim Medvedkov, “Our exporters and importers will learn these rules because those will be the same for our trade with China and with any other countries… I think our membership in the WTO will also promote the development of our relations with China.”
The United States has learned a hard lesson in recent years: When we stand still on trade, we fall behind. The U.S. Chamber urges Congress to approve PNTR before the August district work period to ensure a level playing field for U.S. companies, workers, and farmers in the Russian market.
For more information, please see The U.S. Chamber’s PNTR Primer: Why Approving Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia Is in the U.S. National Interest, at www.uschamber.com/RussiaPNTR.