EU welcomes WTO Russia deal
(BRUSSELS) - The EU's trade commissioner welcomed Thursday "an important step" for international trade as negotiators crossed a key obstacle to Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization.
Karel De Gucht said that unanimous approval by Swiss-mediated WTO negotiators, bringing to an end 18 years of painful negotiations, "is an important step for Russia's economic development and for the multilateral trading system."
He added: "I now look forward to the upcoming WTO ministerial in December to formally endorse Russia's accession to the WTO membership," referring to an assembly of the global body on 15-17 December.
In a statement issued by his office, the EU also said it was "appreciative of the determination of Georgia and Russia to reach a timely resolution of their sensitive bilateral issues."
Russia submitted its application to join the WTO in 1993 but talks dragged on and its membership bid was further delayed after its brief war with Georgia in 2008.
As a member of the WTO, Georgia is able to veto any accession bid and it was only after months of talks that Tbilisi and Moscow finally reached a bilateral agreement on Wednesday.
The accord would see the international monitoring of cross-border trade through Georgia's Kremlin-backed breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
For the overall package, Moscow agreed to cut its tariff ceiling from the 2011 average of 10 percent for all products to 7.8 percent.