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Russia to join the WTO -

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After 18 years of talking Russia is finally set to join the World Trade Organisation. Georgia,
which had objected to Russia's membership, has finally agreed.

TONY EASTLEY: It's been a long, long time coming but one of the world's most protracted trade
negotiations appears to be near a resolution.

After 18 years of talks Russia is finally set to join the World Trade Organization.

As Moscow correspondent Norman Hermant reports, the final obstacle - objections from WTO member
Georgia - have been overcome.

(Man speaking Russian)

NORMAN HERMANT: In a conference room in Moscow with a live video hook-up to the Georgian capital,
Tbilisi, a panel of experts discusses a trade deal many thought they'd never see.

Russia is poised to enter the World Trade Organization, the WTO, after nearly two decades of
negotiations.

Alexei Portansky of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow says the impact can't be
underestimated.

ALEXEI PORTANSKY: The accession to the WTO is very important for Russia. After accession to the
WTO, Russia can demand to re-examine all the obstacles existing against Russian export. Any plan of
modernisation is not possible without membership to the WTO.

NORMAN HERMANT: Russia, with its nearly two trillion dollar economy, is by far the world's largest
economy outside the 153-member WTO.

The benefits of belonging have long been clear. Countries will have more access to Russia's 140
million-strong market.

Russia will gain in mining and steel exports and new competition should force inefficient
industries to modernise.

But Russia's candidacy has been blocked by WTO member Georgia - the small former Soviet republic it
fought a war against in 2008.

Russia recognises two break-away regions from Georgia as independent countries. It took a
compromise proposed by Swiss negotiators to post neutral customs inspectors on those borders to get
Georgia to agree to lift its de facto veto power shared by all WTO members.

Starting in 2006 Russia began embargoing Georgian imports, which had a huge impact of Georgia's
economy. Tblisi says with Russia as a WTO member it can rebuild its exports - particularly wine and
agricultural goods.

Sergi Kapanadze.

SERGI KAPANADZE: Once Russia becomes a member of the WTO, it will have to remove all the official
restrictions it has imposed on the Georgian products.

NORMAN HERMANT: All signs are the Kremlin will accept the compromise. By early next year, after 18
years of waiting, Russia seems set to take its place in the world's premier trade body.

This is Norman Hermant is Moscow reporting for AM.