Thank you president. First, let me join others in welcoming Director Ekaterina Mayorova and her large team from the Russian Federation here today. Allow me to thank his government and the Secretariat for their respective reports and their efforts towards this review. I would also like to express our thanks to our distinguished discussant, Ambassador Chambovey, for facilitating the process and for his, as always, insightful comments at the opening of this meeting.
Mr. Chairman, we appreciate the opportunity to discuss with the Russian Federation its trade policy regime.
Bilateral trade between the UK and Russia reached over Â£ 14.5 billion in the four quarters through the end of the second quarter of 2021. UK exports to Russia totaled over Â£ 4 billion during this period. Russian exports to the UK between 2016 and 2020 tripled, totaling more than Â£ 10 billion.
I would like to join other Members in welcoming the active participation of the Russian Federation throughout the various negotiations that we are conducting in this Assembly, in particular in the framework of the invaluable plurilateral initiatives. We welcome Russia’s contributions to these important discussions aimed at modernizing the WTO Rules and adapting them to the 2020s. I would also like to welcome the positive changes and actions taken by the Russian Federation since its last review of its trade policy in 2016, such as the implementation of key provisions of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation, reductions in the simple average of applied MFN tariff rates, and developments in the area of ââelectronic commerce.
Mr Chairman, having referred to these few encouraging developments, I, like others, see that there are still a number of areas where we would like to see more efforts from the Russian Federation to promote trade. free and fair.
First, despite the commitment expressed by the Russian Federation in its report to improve the business climate, as other Members have also noted this morning, Russia continues to implement local content and content policies. import substitution. Indeed, this is clear from the comments of the Russian government in its own report. These policies, as others have said, have an impact on foreign direct investment and on government and business procurement practices. We cannot ignore their harmful effects on free and fair trade, international trade and investment. We call on our Russian colleagues to ensure that Russia’s policies conform to its WTO obligations and are administered in the spirit of those obligations.
In this regard, we note that the significant participation of state-owned enterprises in key sectors of the Russian economy continues to hamper open and fair competition. The UK wishes to advocate for a reduced role for state-owned enterprises in the Russian economy, in line with the spirit of liberalization of the commitments our countries have made as Members of the WTO.
Second, like other Members who have spoken this morning, we would like to stress the additional challenge for the competitive conditions posed by the prevalence of domestic subsidies and tax relief policies within the Russian Federation. These market-distorting policies disrupt the level playing field and offer unfair advantages to domestic Russian entities over their international competitors. In our opinion, such policies are present in a wide range of sectors, such as information technology, energy, agriculture and agricultural technology, and are also integrated into the export credit system. from Russia. Once again, Mr. Chairman, we encourage the Russian Federation to review its policies in this area to ensure compliance with the commitments made in the framework of the WTO.
Thirdly, Mr President, I would like to comment on another area of ââconcern for UK companies operating in the Russian Federation. Our questions to the Russian Federation contain several requests for clarification on the interaction between the regulatory regimes of the Russian state and the Eurasian Economic Union. The lack of clarity and consistency between these regimes in areas such as SPS, intellectual property and labeling creates great complexity for UK businesses and other international businesses and in some cases constitutes a significant barrier to trade. We look forward to reviewing Russia’s responses to our questions on this issue.
We would like to highlight the challenges of enforcing intellectual property rights law developed at Union and State level, in a context where online piracy continues to pose a continuing threat to UK business interests. in Russia. We urge the Russian Federation to align its standards with those of international best practices, to refrain from introducing more trade restrictive measures than necessary, and to strengthen its enforcement practices in these important areas.
Finally, while we welcome the confirmation in the Secretariat report that Russia’s record on notifications is generally positive, we must stress that some notifications remained pending towards the end of 2020 and that no notifications were made. was provided regarding state trading enterprises under Article XVII of the GATT. Once again, Mr. Chairman, we encourage the Russian Federation to submit all relevant notifications to the WTO in a consistent and timely manner, in accordance with its own transparency obligations.
This Trade Policy Review offers our colleagues in the Russian Federation the opportunity to build on the developments made by Russia since the last TPR, to take decisive action to strengthen its trade policy regime in the areas highlighted. as part of this process by the UK and other Members, and show that Russia lives by the values ââof free and fair trade – not just in word but also in deed
In conclusion, I would like to thank the Russian Federation for its engagement in this Trade Policy Review and for paying attention to our comments. We look forward to receiving Russia’s answers to our questions and working together in line with the words of the Managing Director of The Economist today: We must work together to reform the WTO, we must make it work better for all. Thank you president.