World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/53
10 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
On behalf of the Russian Government let me congratulate all the participants with the first Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. We appreciate the opportunity to address this important international forum.
This Conference is a special event in the history of the new Organization. This Ministerial Meeting to a great extent will give a sense of direction to the evolution of the multilateral trading system up to the end of the millennium and into the twenty-first century.
The Russian Federation is definitely interested in the strengthening of the multilateral trading system as we made our choice in favour of a full membership in the WTO. Such an approach is a logical result of our reforms.
The integration of Russia into the world economy is an integral idea of the reform process in my country. In our view, it is impossible to achieve such an aim without becoming a part of the global trading system. That is why we consider our accession to the WTO as an important factor to support our reforms.
The outcome of the Presidential Elections of 1996 in Russia confirms the course to a market-oriented transformation of our economy. We are steadily moving to greater economic stability. During 1996, the rate of inflation in Russia was reduced five times. The ruble, our national currency, has become stronger. The volume of foreign investment in Russia and that of foreign exchange reserves has been growing. Russia became a participant in international financial markets.
During a short period of time, Russia's trade regime has been liberalized radically. Russia does not apply quantitative restrictions on imports, or other non-tariff measures inconsistent with the WTO rules. Our import customs tariff is, therefore, the major instrument of trade regulation. As a result, our foreign trade is very dynamic with more than a 12 per cent average annual rate of growth.
As to our accession to the WTO we would anticipate that the next year may be a decisive one. In the nearest possible future we shall be ready to start bilateral negotiations on specific terms of our accession. We are willing to conduct such talks with all interested parties.
May I use this opportunity to thank all Members of the Working Party on Russia's accession for their support and constructive contribution to this exercise.
Our approach to the accession is pragmatic. We would expect that Russia's trade regime will improve upon accession. Equally, our trading partners would enjoy more stable and predictable conditions for their products in the Russian market.
This Conference will discuss many complex issues. Labour standards, environment, competition policy, investment are among them. Russia recognizes the importance of all these matters. However, in my view, the time is not yet ripe today for linking directly all of those problems with international trade rules. I believe more time is needed to consider in sufficient depth all their aspects and implications. I am confident that this Conference will approach such controversial issues, as well as other items under consideration, in a manner which would contribute to a largest possible extent to global trade liberalization.
We wish the Conference all the success.