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Russian Duma Endorses WTO Membership Agreement

A lone anti-WTO protester distributes leaflets outside the State Duma in Moscow on July 10.
A lone anti-WTO protester distributes leaflets outside the State Duma in Moscow on July 10.
Russia's State Duma has ratified the agreement under which the country will join the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The vote was 238-208 with one abstention. The ruling United Russia party voted unanimously in favor, while the other three parties with deputies voted against.

Russian Economic Development Minister Andrei Belousov told deputies before the vote that the agreement was in Russia's economic interests.

"There will be no negative social consequences of Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization," Belousov said.

"The population will benefit from [the country] joining the WTO simply because competition will grow and we believe that price increases will slow down considerably."

However, left-leaning deputies from the Communist and A Just Russia factions protested the move out of concern it will harm Russia's manufacturing sector.

A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov said joining the WTO would cement Russia's position as an exporter of natural resources.

"We will in fact become a mere provider of raw materials to the world," Mironov said. "We will just supply energy resources and our industry will not be competitive."

A handful of protesters, including some Communist deputies, stood outside the Duma as the vote was tallied.

Last week, a group of deputies asked the Constitutional Court to rule whether the agreement is constitutional, and the court approved it.

The WTO approved Russia's membership in December 2011, following 18 years of negotiations.

Russia officially joins the global trade organization 30 days after it informs the WTO of the ratification.

The country now enters a three-year period in which it must liberalize its markets to conform to WTO rules.

Primarily, it will have to cut import tariffs and open up key sectors of the economy to foreign investment.

Russia's gross domestic product is about $1.9 trillion annually. The country becomes the 156th WTO member.

With reporting by and AP
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