Russia ends unilateral WTO bid

Russia keeps its never-ending WTO accession bid interesting:

A week after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus would pursue their World Trade Organization memberships jointly as a customs union and not singly, WTO members remain uncertain how the plan would work and what its motives are.

Negotiators from the three ex-Soviet republics briefed WTO members on the plan this week — and also asked them frankly how it could be made to work.

“Nobody knows — and they don’t know,” said one Latin American diplomat. “We were confused by the replies as well.”

Russia, the biggest country outside the body that umpires world trade, has been pursuing membership for 16 years.

Moscow is clearly frustrated at the lack of progress on the talks, which often turn cool when western powers are unhappy with Russia, as after last August’s war with Georgia. In fact, as an existing member, Georgia has an effective veto over Russia in the WTO, which operates by consensus.

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