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February 21, 2005

The Russian Question

Long considered a "riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma," Russia continues to perplex outsiders (at least me!) with mixed reports today about the country’s progress towards an open economy.

On the one hand, the WTO website highlighted major progress in accession talks with Russia and the Moscow Times reports that Russia firmly believes it will join the trade organization by the end of 2005. After concluding two-day talks in Geneva, Russian officials believe that they could be admitted before December’s summit in Hong Kong. The induction is bolstered by trade accords reached in the past year with the EU, China, South Korea, and others. President Bush also said today in Brussels that he "supports WTO membership for Russia." Last month, Russian officials met with Robert Zoellick in the first of many meetings to establish a trade accord.

On the other hand, in the same Brussels speech, President Bush expressed dissatisfaction with Russia’s progress and called upon Russia to "renew [its] commitment to democracy and the rule of law." Furthermore, the President Vladimir Putin has been greatly critized for rolling back democratic reforms and cracking down on dissent. Most of all, many are angry over what seems to be a government takeover of Russia’s largest oil company, Yukos. The US fears a nationally controlled oil market in Russia could damage the international economy. Bush will meet with Putin next week and should use the trade talk leverage to fix the oil scandal. Check out this fascinating blog on the oft-confusing country.

Posted by Chris H. Anderson at 01:17 PM in International Trade | Permalink

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