At a recent meeting with entrepreneurs in Voronezh, Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear that Russia will respond adequately to the actions of WTO partners, introducing similar rules to protect its market.
Probably, this is typical for any adaptation periods. But a slight bewilderment remains. After all, we wanted to be part of this global structure for almost 18 seasons - by analogy with the "soap opera". And during this sometimes dramatic, sometimes comedic WTO-series, it was quite possible to develop a strategy of behavior and tactics of trade interaction. Nearly two decades is more than enough to understand the rules of the game and the pitfalls of the organization, thoroughly examine all the tricks of the competitors, and also make a file on the most sophisticated ones. But, apparently, they speak their teeth well. What we were just not promised was “after the WTO”: easier access of our goods and protection in foreign markets, cheapening of import equipment and raw materials for manufacturers, savings for the Russian consumer’s wallet, the ability to influence the formation of international economic rules, and generally no discrimination, friendliness even help in the fight against corruption.
But all these good transformations require months and years, and the negative came almost immediately. The first to cry were agrarians and livestock breeders, in whom the long-standing alarm was replaced by real problems after the reduction of import duties on imports. Russian agricultural producers were suffocating because of high rates on loans and tariffs, and then they began to balance on the verge of loss. Yes, and other industries are faced with increased competition, which threatens the bankruptcy of enterprises and rising unemployment, especially in single-industry towns. Against this background, the opposition parties, with pain in their hearts and indignation in their voices, ran to seek the truth in the Constitutional Court.
Why bother with the WTO at all? We would continue to trade on a bilateral basis with a traditional set of goods, especially since the volumes were constantly increasing (adjusted for the crisis). Even our capitals and new products periodically penetrated foreign markets. Of course, thanks to the WTO in this regard should be easier. But so far something is not heard of the victorious "hurray" of the Russian expansion. As for foreigners, their goods and services have long been registered in our market, the offices of their concerns have settled in the best offices, and some products are even made in Russia.
On the other hand, this complacency is often costly to the economy. After all, the WTO, especially for our country, acts as a kind of "fear factor", which, although it causes stress, but at the same time it mobilizes strongly. And if you always stay in a relaxed state, sit in the "greenhouse conditions", and progress will miss. Of course, you can purely Russian 33 year roll on the stove, and then, when completely squeezed, to rise to fight adversity. But this is a luxury for an almost depressed economy. Yes, and how else to stir up our manufacturers, so that they produce the best quality products?
Therefore, the WTO for Russia is not only a significant event in economic life, but also a serious challenge. This is an excellent test of endurance in the economy: will we be able to overcome this ordeal, will we be able to take advantage of obvious advantages, become more competitive, increase labor productivity.
How would anyone not want, but times have changed, and our country has long and no one owes nothing (except perhaps debt). No one guarantees the first places - neither in world politics, nor in sports, nor in the economy. And it makes no sense to remember with a sigh of sadness about Soviet greatness. We must not be nostalgic, do not smear snot-tears according to the proceeds, but make our way forward and revive the former power. Here Sweden, for example, after the defeat of Charles XII’s troops, didn’t particularly kick in the external arena and focused on internal development. But we do not want that, we cannot sacrifice leadership ambitions. So, it is necessary to gather the will into a fist, roll up our sleeves and, overcoming the deprivations, confirm our sovereignty. And in this sense, participation in the WTO may be useful.
But the authorities needed to better lubricate the “skis” and check the “rifle” more carefully before entering the global trade route. After all, they perfectly understood in which sectors competitors would “shoot”. And adaptation would be more easily tolerated if the government had bothered to modernize the economy and strengthen the most vulnerable sectors. But here, as always, trouble has come, open the gate. They hoped, apparently, that they would flood money with sorrow, and everything would normalize itself. As a result, it was not possible to meet the WTO fully armed. Plans and programs aimed at supporting the real sector in an "open market" are still being developed. But competitors will not forgive blunders.
However, there is nowhere to retreat, and we must play by the new rules. Now you can remember those who crossed swords in verbal battles around the WTO with a sad smile or an approving nod. Officials, deputies, bloggers, journalists, the expert community, businessmen - all foamingly argued that they were right and mocked their opponents' arguments. But already a year soon, as we entered the organization. On the one hand, the disaster did not break out, and the market was not choked in the flow of imports. On the other hand, the WTO manna also did not fall on our impatient heads.
So far, everyone is in a normal mode: the authorities continue to assert that they are monitoring the situation, and they (who would doubt it) have everything under control. In the meantime, those sectors that have suffered the brunt of foreign trade liberalization count losses. They are echoed by opponents of Russia's accession to the WTO with the phrase: “We warned you”.
Some experts even believe that the WTO is a scam into which Russia has been treacherously pulled in, tying hand and foot. And there are grounds for such paranoia. But, most likely, the WTO is just a “untimely blessing”, the joy from which we would experience it easier if we were better prepared. Even the Accounts Chamber points out problems with the legislative and staffing of our participation in a trade organization.
The authorities are asking to be patient, assuring that the flaws will be eliminated, the losses from the WTO are minimized, and in the long run we will certainly win. In addition, they promise not to abandon problematic industries to their fate and support them through subsidies and government procurement. However, reports from the "fields" come depressing, and on the horizon loom litigation with foreign partners (for the supply of meat, recycling car, wood). The Russian economy seemed to be in the millstones of "economic Darwinism" when the strongest and best survive.
It turns out that our entry into the WTO is now beneficial only to foreigners. They achieved what they demanded - remove the protective barriers and "open the gateways". And while we are somehow weak, they will skim the cream. After all, as my Odessa uncle likes to repeat: "Oh, I beg of you, which organization Russia would not join, it gets into trouble everywhere, and it will be used everywhere."