Two-way road

Belarus and the World Trade Organization are in search of common interest
Economists have been examining this question for several years, watching over difficult ups and downs of the negotiation process, but they don’t give an unambiguous answer. The result and, mainly, the time of accomplishment of a peculiar “bidding” of the country for the place in the WTO, are not clear. Moreover, the relations between participating countries and claimants for this joining acquire politically motivated character more noticeably. This is confirmed by a recent announcement of the USA top public officers that the wish of Russia to join the WTO was threatened by the conflict with Georgia… Such methods of bearing pressure don’t assist to the status increase of this trading organization, according to the definition. Let us note that this status has already fallen to such an extent that some experts raised a matter of a possible WTO collapse. 

It is important for Belarus to solve a question on correlation of the terms of joining with the actions of the biggest trading partner — Russia. The specialists are categorical in the majority of estimations: it is better to join the WTO at the same time or with a small gap. However, let us recollect that something like that was said about the Ukraine, but this country had already joined the WTO, and the trade with Belarus has just been activated.

In principle, we are at the WTO’s door, according to some experts, meaning the fact that in the process of preparation Belarus brought a part of the legislative base in balance with the organization’s norms and requirements. In fact, this testifies on gradual liberalization of economic activity conditions.
As of today, many regulatory legal acts require slight corrections. There are issues requiring serious processing, according to the specialists. For example, questions to the existing system of non-tariff regulation measures remain, as well as to the practice of selectiveness of tax remissions (up to complete exemption from taxes). Thus, in compliance with the WTO rules, the preferences shall be provided to all enterprises of some sector of economy, or to all enterprises without exception, not dividing them in state or private enterprises. 

Liberalization, carried out within the frames of the World Trade Organization, stipulates the reduction or cancellation of import customs tariffs, and this can negatively influence competitive ability of many goods. For the moment, they include more than 500 of the most sensitive items. Agriculture, food, chemical, and light industries, woodworking, production of construction materials, and mechanic engineering will be among the fields, on which activity joining the WTO can have a bad effect…

Experts estimate a short-term economic effect of Belarus joining the WTO at 230–250 million US Dollars annually: the economy can obtain this sum after cancellation of discriminating non-tariff, anti-dumping, and other special restrictive measures of the WTO member countries in relation to Belarusian goods. 

Protection of an agrarian sector and minimization of possible negative consequences are a special topic of negotiations. In fact, during the “bidding” the foreign partners developed an understanding of the fact that the existing level of state support to agriculture in Belarus (almost 500 million US Dollars annually) corresponds with the field requirements.
Undoubtedly, the possible joining of Belarus to the WTO will increase the degree of competition among industrial companies at the internal market. How shall we estimate this factor? “Enterprises, producing the goods only to the internal market, and the goods of draft quality, have to compete with foreign suppliers of more qualitative and, probably, cheaper goods,” Alexey Dayneko thinks, the Deputy Director of the Research Studies Institute of the Ministry of Economy. The specialist explains that it is necessary to increase the effectiveness of work of such enterprises in any case, not only in the context of preparation to joining the WTO. Big exporters, successfully working at the world market, as well as importers of spare parts (the customs valuation system will change), will stand to gain. It is not excluded that the companies rendering transport services can count additional profits. The research testifies that joining the WTO can push to the increase of the sales turnover in the field, as well as of export and import.

Yes, a perspective of Belarus Joining the WTO still looks remote. An obvious present task is to increase operational efficiency of enterprises and economy in whole. In this case, any negative forecasts can become insolvent…

Tamara Averjanova
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