Russia has not yet officially joined the WTO and its membership, accepted last November after more than 18 years of negotiations, is already generating serious concerns: indeed on 19th March, several unions and associations demanded a national referendum on entry to the WTO.
They fear that Russia’s membership will lead to disastrous consequences for the national economy, because, according to Konstantin Babkin, president of the Association of agricultural equipment, it will result in a drop in customs duties and State support for producers with an increase in foreign imports.
Russian industrialists and farmers are increasing the pressure on the Douma1, which has yet to ratify the admission treaty before June. Even though the lower house of Russian Parliament will presumably respect the presidential decision in favor of admission, it also takes the concerns of Russian producers seriously, highlighting the necessity for retaining protectionist measures to defend the Russian domestic market.
If this announcement does not reassure domestic producers, it also raises concerns with Russia’s European partners, who are already expecting a reconsideration of the results of negotiations and litigation within the WTO. Their uncertainties are even greater because since 2010, Russia has made unilateral decisions to suspend, then resume its grain exports, causing high volatility on international agricultural markets.
Even though until recently mainly major developed agricultural countries, including the European Union and the United States made criticism against the Doha Round, it is now also increasingly the case among emerging powers.
Economic, financial and food crises have in fact brought to light the strategic importance of agriculture, leading more and more countries to doubt the beneficial effects of the unregulated liberalization of agricultural trade.
Under these conditions, continuing to hope for a conclusion of the Doha Round as it is currently envisaged would seem illusory. The challenge is to encourage the development of trade, without endangering the food security of countries, it would probably be better to accept Doha’s “clinical death” and initiate a new round of negotiations that integrate agriculture’s specific and strategic character.
1 Douma is the lower house in Russian parliament