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Russia joins the WTO after 18 years of negotiations

Russia has become the 156th member of the World Trade Organization.

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Lawmakers, members of Communist party faction, rally against Russia's impending membership of the World Trade Organization, WTO, just outside Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, in Moscow, on July 10, 2012. The poster (R) reads: 'Russia's membership of the WTO is the road to disaster!' The State Duma debates today ratification of Russia's accession to the WTO to seal 18 years of tense negotiations with the global trade body. (Andrey Smirnov/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia has become the 156th member of the World Trade Organization after 18 years of negotiations. 

Russia is one of the last major global economies to enter the WTO, which regulates import taxes and subsidies to make global trade as fair as possible for all member nations, the Associated Press reported.

“Both accessions show that joining the WTO remains high on the countries’ agendas since trade can bring a predictable and stable basis for economic growth,” WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said in a statement. “This is especially important as the world goes through troubled times and continues to suffer from one of the worst global economic crises in memory.”

Russia’s entry into the WTO "marks the biggest step in global trade liberalization since China joined a decade ago," Bloomberg Businessweek reported, and it will increase Russia's economic output by $162 billion a year by attracting foreign investment and increasing market access, the World Bank said in March. 

Experts hope that membership will transform Russia for the better. However, some worry that Russia's new status in the WTO won't bring change to the nation until the United States repeals the bill that restrict's Russia to a Cold War-era trade status, Agence France Presse reported

More from GlobalPost: Russia completes a long, strange trip to the World Trade Organization

A US official noted that Russia will bring over 140 million consumers and a $1.8-trillion economy into the global network. "This will increase US exports, strengthen our economy, and create thousands of American jobs," acting US commerce secretary Rebecca Blank said of Russia's addition to the WTO.

"The Obama administration is committed to working with Congress to pass this legislation so that American businesses can enjoy the same benefits in Russia's market that our foreign competitors now have," Blank continued. 

The US has been a WTO member since 1995, the Los Angeles Times reported, and will need to grant Russia what's known as "permanent normal trade relations status," which is a requirement under the organization's rules, AFP reported. 

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"This is a watershed moment that is much more about signaling that Russia is open for business and is adopting an institutional framework that it can’t change and that the rest of the world can trust," Roland Nash, chief strategist at Moscow hedge fund Verno Capital, told the Financial Times

WTO members conduct around 97 percent of global trade, and has 27 "observer governments," including the Vatican, according to the LA Times.

There are still many countries waiting to be accepted to the organization, including Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Sudan. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business/global-economy/120822/russia-joins-the-wto-after-18-years-negotiations