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Maxim Oreshkin: BRICS presents a united front for free trade

10.10.17

The World Trade Organization is facing hard times now. The reason to this is the policy of certain countries that initially advocated free trade but later changed their mind. This was announced in an exclusive interview to RT by Maxim Oreshkin, the Russian Minister of Economic Development.

In discussion with Oksana Boyko, the channel presenter, he emphasized that Moscow played an active role in the WTO and held a strong ground in the Third Energy Package dispute. The head of the Ministry of Economic Development told what issues the Russian delegation was going to discuss at the WTO conference in Argentina. He also mentioned that BRICS “united front” and Kiev’s low will to negotiate were among the issues to be discussed.

— Maxim Stanislavovich, the EU within the WTO expressed concern regarding Russian taxes on foreign wines. To what extent are you familiar with their claims? Has this issue been discussed with your colleagues?

— Actually, there are plenty of trade disputes in the WTO including our disputes with the European Union. All disputes are connected to the Third Energy Package including the wine dispute.  Consequently, all these procedures are developing in the way they should develop in a country within the WTO. There is no any relevant news yet, but certainly, this issue is one of the most discussed ones.

— You mentioned the Energy Package. As far as I know, in autumn the WTO’s arbitrators will deliver a decision regarding this dispute. Surely, you cannot influence or foresee the decision of the court, but nevertheless, in your opinion, how strong is the Russian position? 

— The answer is simple. If we don’t realize the strength of our position; and if we do not feel strong enough that we might win, then we simply should not apply to the WTO and initiate disputes. Regarding this certain dispute, it’s early to say, the decision has not been made public yet, that’s why the discussion is still behind the scenes.  

— In May Russia filed a claim against Ukraine because of sanctions. First consultations have already been held. To what extent has Russia succeeded in establishing a contact with the Ukrainian party? How do you evaluate, so to say, negotiability of your opponent?

— Negotiability is very low. Unfortunately, at the moment it is so. But we hope that moving forward the situation will change. We have claims filed by Ukraine against Russia. There are claims filed by Russia against Ukraine. There is a whole new range of areas we have been taking. For the time being, everything is developing within the range of procedures available through the WTO.   

— With what position is Russia going to the WTO Ministers’ Conference in Argentina? And are the BRICS countries intend to present a united front there?

— We can see that the WTO is facing hard times now. The reason to this is the position of some countries that were strong advocates of free trade, and now we can see a shift in their position. That is why, this affects the World Trade Organization a little, for sure. I think the BRICS countries are the ones that present a united front here; the front that will stand for free global trade, for moving forward. With this position being so popular it is extremely important for the WTO not only to be saved as an organization, but also to strengthen and allow the global economy to move forward actively.

As for the December meeting in Argentina, we stand with our positions here, too. Russia has become the WTO member not long ago, five years only, but, what is very important, we play an active role here and the issues we raise are connected including restriction of agricultural subsidies of Russia. It is the country that provides subsidies. There are few countries compared to others and levelled to competitive grounds; certainly, this is very important for active development of Russian agriculture especially in development of domestic and international supply markets.

Another two issues are protection of investments and electronic trade. The issues that are very relevant to today’s economy will mainly determine their development in the coming years. That is why, it is very important to go through the first stage of determination of some fundamentals at the conference in Argentina in December and then continue working on these issues.

— With your permission, a short question from our Arab colleagues. Medvedev, the Prime Minister, is having a working trip to Algeria and Morocco. What are the prospects of cooperation with these two countries? Is it expected that any agreements, in which you may have taken part, will be concluded? 

— We have really good relationships with Algeria and Morocco; and they are developing. Prior to the visit of the Russian Prime Minister I held negotiations with the Minister of Industry and Trade of Morocco. We reviewed the areas where he had developed relations, and where we might execute trade and investment contracts. Also, we saw that there was a potential for cooperation development in the industry in a number of areas of agriculture; and we saw the areas where we could help each other. Definitely, these are relations where Russia and Morocco will gain a positive effect to the benefit of people in Russia and Morocco.      

The situation is absolutely the same with Algeria. That is why, the relationship between Russia and the Arab world is growing and strengthening. This is not only the North Africa, but also the Middle East. The King of Saudi Arabia has just visited Moscow; and it was very positive too.

Oksana Boyko

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