Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 186

In a broadcast to the country on October 6, President Eduard Shevardnadze announced a development “of no lesser significance than joining the United Nations”–namely, the admission of Georgia to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO at its October 6 session in Geneva officially approved Georgia’s membership after more than three years of negotiations. The membership means that Georgian products from now on enjoy access on a most-favored-nation basis to all of WTO’s member countries–as will those countries’ exports to Georgia. According to Foreign Trade Minister Tamar Beruchashvili, Tbilisi expects to boost deliveries of agricultural products and manganese alloys, primarily to European markets.

The Georgian parliament is expected to ratify the documents this month so that the membership can take effect in time for the WTO’s November meeting in the United States. Georgia is the second country of the CIS–after Kyrgyzstan–to be admitted to the WTO. Moldova and Armenia are well advanced in their own negotiations with the organization (Tbilisi Radio and Television, Bloomberg, The Financial Times, Flux and Basapress, October 6).

These CIS member countries have accepted the WTO’s usual terms for membership, breaking free from the Russian-led group of CIS Customs Union countries which insist on special terms for their admission to the WTO. They primarily seek exemptions which would protect noncompetitive industries against international competition. Kyrgyzstan has been a target of criticism for “deviating” from the Russian-inspired “coordinated position” in the negotiations with the WTO (see the Monitor, September 27, and The Fortnight in Review, October 8). Moscow will now have to spread the blame between Bishkek, Tbilisi, Chisinau and Yerevan. Outside the CIS, Latvia gained membership in 1998 and Estonia in May 1999.