Joint Letter From European Union And United States On Removing The Russian Federation From The WTO Developed Countries Coordinating Group



Terrence P. Stewart | Current Thoughts on Trade

With the Russian war in Ukraine intensifying, western countries and their allies continue to up the level of sanctions. My last three posts have looked at trade components of the sanctions imposed by a host of governments and what steps might occur at the WTO.

On March 4, 2022, the European Union and the United States forwarded a joint letter to the WTO’s Chairman of the General Council alerting the WTO that the other members of the Developed Countries Coordinating Group would no longer be including the Russian Federation in their deliberations on potential chairs of WTO bodies and committees.

The EU Mission to the WTO provided a tweet that included the joint letter. The tweet says, “EU and US informed the Chair of the WTO General Council today that Russia’s participation in the Developed Countries Coordinating Group of the WTO is suspended. Russia is an aggressor state that blatantly violates international law. #StandWithUkraine”.

Yesterday’s article in Inside U.S. Trade’s World Trade Online reviews the limited effect of the action, particularly in light of the recent announcement of the slate of Chairs for committees and bodies. (“The move will have little immediate impact, according to Inu Manak, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, because the WTO announced its committee chairs last month. However, she said, it sends a “fairly big signal,” as the members of the coordinating group are symbolically kicking Russia out of the influential club that chooses who leads discussions at the WTO.”).

Still in the offing is what additional trade actions — such as stripping Russia of most favored nation (“MFN”) tariff treatment, banning imports of Russian oil and gas, or attempting to expel Russia from the WTO — will be pursued or implemented. As noted in yesterday’s post, Canada has led on stripping Russia of MFN treatment and banning imports of Russian oil and gas. The U.S. and EU have one or both under consideration. It is unclear if other countries are considering one or both actions as well. None have yet endorsed the idea of expelling Russia from the WTO, though at least one former WTO Appellate Body Chair has opined that such an action could occur under WTO provisions. 

Yesterday’s action by developed countries in the WTO signals that actions within multilateral organizations will be part of the effort to get the Russian Federation to cease its unprovoked war with Ukraine. Considering the increasing levels of hostility, countries opposing the Russian and Belarusan actions need to speed up further sanctions.

Terence Stewart, former Managing Partner, Law Offices of Stewart and Stewart, and author of the blog, Current Thoughts on Trade.

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