MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti)
Protocol on Russia Joining the WTO Comes Into Effect
The protocol on Russia joining the Marrakesh agreement on the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) comes into force on Wednesday, August 22, making the Russian Federation the 156th member of the WTO.
The document was signed in Geneva on December 16, 2011, with ministers of the WTO member countries approving Russia’s entry after 18 years of negotiations.
As a WTO member state, Russia accepts all the commitments of the Marrakesh agreement. Interim periods for price deregulation are set at two to three years, and five to seven years for more sensitive goods.
In July, the Eurasian Economic Commission Council approved an updated Unified Customs Tariff which took into account Russia’s obligations to the WTO. It will come into force on August 23. With this new tariff, the average weighted rate of import customs duty will go down from 9.6 percent to 7.5-7.8 percent.
The Russian government is working on ways of adapting the economic sectors to the WTO requirements, while continuing to support agriculture. Support programs for farm equipment production, shipbuilding and aviation construction will be re-formatted and state support will go directly to the producers.
One of the key issues of WTO accession was support for the Russian agriculture sector. In line with the commitments taken, Russia will now be able to spend $9 billion on farming in 2012-2013. The volume of financial injections is expected to go down to $4.4 billion in 2018. Speaking about the terms of Russia’s accession to the WTO, Economic Development Minister Andrei Belousov said it will be a long time before Russia fully implements the support volumes outlined in the agreement.
In July, the government approved a state program of support for agriculture for 2013-2020, with 1.509 trillion rubles allocated from the federal budget. Over the next eight years the funding will total 2.28 trillion rubles, including 770 billion from the regional budgets, Minister of Agriculture Nikolai Fedorov said.
There will be some changes in Russian exports. The European Union is to lift the quotas on Russian metal imports. The government is also going to triple export quotas for pine and spruce in 2013 and is increasing the export duty on soya beans to 20 percent, but at least 35 euros per ton.
Export duties on natural and petroleum gas and gaseous hydrocarbons remain unchanged. For natural gas the rate remains at 30 percent and for the rest, 5 percent of their customs value. The decision does not affect export customs duties for oil and some oil products, the rates for which will be established by the Russian government every month.
The Ministry of Economic Development thinks WTO membership will offer Russia a number of advantages. Simplified customs procedures, for example, will yield economic operators in Russia $18 billion a year, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Critics and independent experts, however, believe WTO membership will do irreparable damage to branches of the Russian economy like agriculture, mechanical engineering and light industry.
Shevardnadze: Russia Should Prevent Destruction of Georgian Villages
Former Georgian president on how to prevent a new conflict with South Ossetia
The Georgian government is finding it increasingly difficult to regain control over its former autonomous regions. Days before the fourth anniversary of Russia’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on August 26, South Ossetian President Leonid Tibilov ordered the construction of industrial and agricultural facilities to replace eight villages around Tskhinval which were abandoned by its Georgian inhabitants during the 2008 war. Their names are to be changed, too.
Former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze commented on Tibilov’s initiative in an interview with Izvestia.
What should Georgia do?
If Tibilov really has such barbarous plans, it will be a major trial for us. We must find a way to prevent the destruction of these eight villages. To save them, we must start an immediate dialogue with Russia. International organizations must also be informed. As an ordinary Georgian citizen, I am appealing to them to prevent the destruction of these Georgian villages.
Do you think that Tibilov coordinated his plans with Moscow?
I don’t think that Russia could encourage such an initiative. I therefore hope that Russia will not permit this savagery. Otherwise it will be a tragedy, for which Tbilisi would also bear partial responsibility. The current Georgian authorities are largely to blame for the existence of the so-called independent South Ossetia, which is the result of their ill-considered actions in 2008. Saakashvili must prevent the destruction of these villages, even if he has to resign to achieve this. If he really loves his country, he should do so. Does he still think that he won the war?
In 2006, Tbilisi created a puppet “provisional administration” in these villages. The South Ossetian leaders were unhappy at having such an “enclave” near their capital.
I refused to comment on that administration before, but I can now tell you that the results of the August  war confirmed the absurdity, to put it mildly, of the decision to set up such a body.
It has been recently proposed to revive the fair which was held in the village of Ergneti on the Georgian-Ossetian border after the 1989-1992 conflict. Your successors closed it under the pretext of clamping down on smuggling.
Despite the many negative aspects of that fair, getting rid of it was a criminal decision on the part of our government. If the Georgian government decides to resurrect it I would welcome it. It would certainly help in the gradual rebuilding of relations between Georgians and Ossetians.
After the Verdict
The three young women, members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot, recently sentenced to two years behind bars, comment on the verdict in an interview with Novaya Gazeta.
Question: What are your feelings about Judge Syrova?
Yekaterina Samutsevich: I’m indifferent. There’s no love lost between us, and in any case, she’s only an obedient parrot, spouting what she’s told to say.
Maria Alyokhina: It’s sad that her bureaucratic side prevailed over her human side. I can’t believe that, as a human being, she actually condemns us: she heard our speeches. She is also a lawyer and she knew what she was doing. I don’t know how someone can mock the law like that, while wearing judicial robes. It was this trial that was sacrilegious and profane: a judge swearing on the Constitution, which is a sacred procedure, and then ignoring the Constitution in the most profane way.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova: Russia has no court. It has a bureaucratic machine which does not decide anything. We could not have expected a nothing to do anything. We are more concerned about real people, and many of them support us. We are happy about this. We have been judged by Russian society; the Khamovniki Court isn’t worth another look, it’s like dirty underwear.
Question: Do you think two years in jail is a fair verdict? Do you know that the prosecutor was calling for three?
Yekaterina Samutsevich: It definitely isn’t. It’s the usualthing – the prosecutor asks for a longer sentence, and the court gives you a slightly shorter term. In our case, no custodial sentence would have been fair. But we couldn’t have expected a fair hearing from the Putin-Surkov judicial system.
Maria Alyokhina: It’s difficult to say if it’s fair – I’ve almost forgotten what fair feels like. This court and this regime do not promote fairness.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova: We have no grudge, only a political one against those who want to jail political activists. I think that this regime has to recognize that its time is up, that, although it controls all the federal TV channels, more and more people are finally realizing that this system is doing modern Russia harm. They should go with dignity.
Question: Why do you think none of the complainants were there when the verdict was read out?
Yekaterina Samutsevich: They must have played their roles during the hearings. They gave their evidence and were no longer needed. Their presence would only have angered observers. They probably didn’t want to hear another burst of yells of “Shame!”
Maria Alyokhina: I think that those people were engaged by the Church leadership and they had no personal desire to come to look at us again. Maybe they felt awkward and uncomfortable. The only thing that matters is that one of the complainants asked the court to give us suspended sentences, which would have been the lesser of two evils. Unfortunately I don’t know who he is, but I appreciate what must have been a courageous step.
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The current contract portfolio of Russian arms exporters is worth about $46 billion. Annual exports total $15 billion, and this will ensure uninterrupted deliveries for the next three years, even in the worst-case scenario. The list of the main buyers of Russian weapons is unlikely to change drastically.