The EU's bilateral relations with Russia, its third-largest trade partner, will be further improved by Russia's joining the WTO, provided that Russia meets all its WTO obligations, says Parliament in a resolution voted by a show of hands on Friday. MEPs note that Russia was still introducing potentially trade-restrictive measures just before it joined WTO in August 2012.
MEPs see Russia's recent ban on livestock imports from the EU, preferential treatment of domestic producers in public procurement, seasonal import duties on some types of sugar and recycling scheme for vehicles as worrying signs that it is not fully committed to meeting its WTO obligations. The production and sale of counterfeit products in Russia must also stop, in line with Russia's WTO commitments, they say.
WTO membership for reforms
Russia should implement all its WTO membership obligations, without delay, in order to capitalise on the opening of its economy to international trade and investment, MEPs believe. They stress that this opening should accelerate reform in the country, including combating corruption, enforcing the rule of law and improving the business climate.
Russia's full compliance with WTO rules and gradual fulfilment of its commitments must also be a precondition for further negotiations with the EU on regulatory issues such as public procurement, energy and investment, MEPs underline. The text says these negotiations must include a substantial and legally-binding chapter on energy, fair reciprocal rules for public tenders, and reform of Russian customs procedures.
Russia's customs union: barrier to trade with the EU
MEPs express concern that the customs union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus could contravene WTO rules and Russia's commitments insofar as it creates additional barriers to trade with Russia. MEPs also oppose involving non-WTO members of the customs union in negotiations between the EU and Russia for a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. These negotiations must remain bilateral, they insist.
Commission must watch
MEPs ask the Commission to look carefully into possible trade-distortive and discriminatory provisions introduced by Russia and to ensure that they are properly addressed bilaterally or, if necessary, via WTO-compatible trade defence instruments. The Commission should also ensure that projects deployed under the EU-Russia partnership for modernisation initiative are funded efficiently, they add.
Procedure: Commission statement followed by debate (with non legislative resolution)