Yes, I have come out in support of Russia becoming a member of the WTO. One of the negotiations that I was involved in and concluded when I was U.S. trade representative was the bilateral agreement between Russia and the United States on Russia’s accession to the WTO. The accession process of a country coming into the World Trade Organization involves both the bilateral agreements with all of the WTO members that want one, plus a multilateral agreement. The multilateral agreement was concluded by the Obama administration last year. The bilateral agreement was concluded by the Bush administration in 2006.
It’s sort of a mixed bag, but I’ll give you just two points why I think it makes sense. If you look at trade protectionist actions that were taken after the fall of 2008, with the global economic recession, the most protectionist actions among the G20 countries that were taken were taken by Russia. Out of 430-some protectionist actions taken by G20 countries, 85 of them were taken by Russia. The reason for that, I think, was because Russia was not under any constraints: they were not members of the WTO. All of the other nineteen members of the G20 had WTO restrictions on them about what tariffs they could raise and what kind of import restrictions they could put on. And so those kinds of disciplines are good for the world.
Second, when Russia takes a protectionist action today, there is no recourse. No one had any means of taking Russia to dispute settlement. Russian membership would provide the WTO with that kind of resource.
It’s also in Russia’s interest to be a member of the WTO. Russia today has no recourse when another country hits Russia’s exports. This way, Russia would have recourse to dispute settlement, and its exports would be protected by the global trading rules as well.
So it just makes sense all around for Russia to be behaving like a WTO member and for Russia and other countries to have access to WTO dispute settlement mechanisms.