MOSCOW, August 22 – RAPSI. Russia formally became the 156th member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Thursday. The protocol on Russia’s accession to the Marrakech Agreement establishing the WTO took effect on August 22.

The protocol was signed in Geneva on December 16, 2011. Ministers of the WTO member states approved Russia’s accession into the organization after 18 years of negotiations.

Russia will undertake all obligations under the agreement as a WTO member state. The transitional period for liberalizing market access is generally 2-3 years, or 5-7 years for sensitive goods.

The automobile industry, agriculture, farm vehicle manufacture, and the manufacture of light-weight goods are among those sensitive areas which may be afforded additional time due to specific economic and financial difficulties.

The Russian government is developing measures aimed at acclimating Russian industries to the WTO conditions.

One of the key issues during accession negotiations was the support of the Russian farming industry. Russia’s new obligations will mean the government will be able to allocate $9 billion to its agricultural industry between 2012 and 2013; future subsidies will gradually decrease to a low of $4.4 billion in 2018.

Furthermore, in accordance with the agreements, the government has tripled its quotas for the export of pine and spruce wood from Russia in 2013.

Additionally, the Russian government previously confirmed the rates of export customs duties for Russian goods, bringing them in line with its new commitments after joining the World Trade Organization.

The export rates for natural gas, oil gases, and hydrocarbons will not change.

According to the World Trade Bank, Russia’s accession to the WTO will bring about a GDP increase of about 3.3% per year, thus leading to an expected 11% GDP increase over the course of the next ten years (about $162 billion).

In mid-November 2011, the working group created to facilitate Russia’s accession to the WTO confirmed all relevant agreements. Russia then formally ended negotiations on its accession to the WTO; Russia has been seeking WTO membership since 1993.

Active talks on Russia’s membership began in 1995. Due to the reluctance of key negotiation players  Brussels and Washington, the terms were delayed. Russia stated that it would join a trade organization with its Customs Union partners Belarus and Kazakhastan, and suspended the bilateral talks. It was decided to resume the talks at a later stage.

In July 2012, President Vladimir Putin signed the federal law "On the Ratification of the Protocol on the Accession of the Russian Federation to the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization of April 15, 1994."

The law was adopted by the parliament's lower house on July 10 and endorsed by the senators on July 18.

The accession protocol incited a host of disputes in the business community and in parliament. An appeal was filed with the Constitutional Court, requesting that the court check whether Russia's accession to the WTO was in compliance with the former’s Constitution.

The applicants believed constitutional procedure was violated during the protocol's submission for ratification. They also held that some of the protocol provisions were unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court announced on July 9 that it saw no violations involved in signing the protocol on Russia's accession to the WTO.