New Opposition to Russia’s WTO Bid

The Wall Street Journal reported on October 2nd:

New opposition is emerging in Congress to Russia’s bid to enter the World Trade Organization. In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, four senior U.S. senators, including Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, raised questions about Russia’s ongoing efforts to help Iran develop a nuclear-power station. Just last week, Russia and Iran signed an agreement setting a September 2007 startup date for the power plant. The senators warned they are prepared to oppose Moscow’s entry into the WTO, unless Russia’s nuclear cooperation with Iran is brought to a halt. They voiced concern that “Iran will be able to enrich the nuclear fuel” used at the power station “for eventual use” in a nuclear weapon. “We are alarmed at even the possibility that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon and we find Russia’s role in accelerating this process deeply disturbing,” the senators wrote, citing fears that Russia may help Iran build additional nuclear power reactors. “We hardly believe this is the behavior of a responsible member of the global trading community.” Working through the United Nations, the U.S. and its European allies have been trying to limit Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. At the same time, Schwab is leading negotiations for the Bush administration on a trade deal that would clear the way for Russia’s entry to the WTO. Any WTO deal would trigger action by Congress repealing Cold War-era economic restrictions on Moscow. Also signing the letter were Sens. Jim Bunning (R., Ky.), Gordon Smith (R., Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.).

Meanwhile, Georgia announced that, not suprisingly, it will veto Russia’s application. The Moscow News reports:

Georgia will block Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organization as long as Moscow’s economic sanctions against the country remain in place, Georgia’s Central Bank chief told Reuters on Wednesday, Oct. 4. Georgian National Bank President Roman Gotsiridze said the national currency — the lari — and inflation would be unaffected by Russia’s decision to cut transport and postal links over a spying row. “Georgia will never support Russia’s accession to the WTO as long as sanctions remain,” he said in an interview in his central Tbilisi office. “These sanctions are the behavior of an uncivilized country and it is hardly imaginable that a country which blockades its neighbor is a member of the Group of Eight.” As MosNews has reported over the last few days, Russia threw up a blockade against Georgia on Monday, Oct. 2, after Tbilisi’s release of four arrested Russian soldiers failed to defuse the worst crisis in years between the ex-Soviet neighbors. Rail, air and postal links with Georgia were cut in the early hours of Tuesday.

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