The second part of the seminar, titled “International Trade in the 21st Century: Non-Discriminatory Rules or Sanctions and Fragmentation?”, was largely dedicated to presenting the Russian view on the evolution of global trade in the 21st century and the role of the WTO in this process.
The speakers expressed concern that WTO rules and regulations may not be followed in the nascent transnational organizations, like TPP and TTIP. They believe excitement about the new format can downgrade the role of existing regulatory institutions, first of all, the WTO.
The results of four years of Russia’s WTO membership were among the most discussed issues. Although the benefits of membership may not be immediately obvious, experts agreed that in the long term Russia needs it as something that can help intensify the Russian model of resource-based economy. As one of the members of the audience said, Russia’s joining the WTO was only one of the aspects of Russia’s integration with such institutions of the Bretton-Woods system as the IMF and the World Bank.
Seminar participants also discussed sanctions and their impact on the Russian economy. According to one of the experts, Russian economy began to experience structural difficulties years ago, when energy prices were still high.
Participants in the discussion believe that sanctions against Russia are a challenge to the international public law, which the 21st century lawyers have not been able to meet. Therefore cooperation between Russian and other WTO member-states for updating the existing norms and rules will be a significant contribution to the future development of international trade.
Experts discussed the peculiarities of Russia’s WTO membership in great detail. In particular, the mechanism of settlement of WTO-related disputes caused a heated debate. Whereas the European Union and the United States have national mechanisms to solve such issues, many in Russia doubt the rationale for establishing similar mechanisms. One of the discussion participants said the request to create them must come from the business community, which has not so far demonstrated interest in their emergence.
Seminar participants concluded that the discussion format involving Russian and international participants would help better understand the other side’s perspective of events and is a necessary step to reach consensus.