Russia and Kazakhstan have been discussing the formation of a trade agreement for some time and an agreement is now in place. From July 1 2010 a customs union between these two countries will be launched. Belarus has also been in talks with the Russian government, but as yet, it will not become a member, due to disputes with Russia. Belarus was hoping that the customs union would free it from export duties on oil, but this has not been the case. The gas dispute between Russia and Belarus has continued, although a meeting is taking place to try to resolve the issue.
President Alexander Lukashenko has said that Belarus will sign the Customs Unions documents if Russia cancels petroleum products duties now and oil duties from January 2011. He said:
“As a goodwill step, we propose removing customs barriers and customs duties on petroleum products now, and we will wait until the beginning of next year regarding oil duties; but the duties must be removed from January 1.”
Although the customs union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus formally began on January 1 2010, it will not work fully until these disputes have been resolved. The following articles consider this agreement and the likely impact on the countries’ negotiations to join the WTO.
Russia, Kazakhstan agree customs union minus Belarus Reuters (28/5/10)
Russia hopeful of settling Belarus gas dispute Reuters (19/6/10)
Belarus to sign customs union documents, if Russia cancel oil duties RIA Novosti, (18/6/10)
Creation of customs union should not hinder Russia’s entering WTO RIA Novosti (17/6/10)
Kazakhstan ‘moving to re-instate Soviet Union’ with customs unions with Russia Telegraph, Richard Orange (11/6/10)
Russia, Kazakhstan launch customs union without Belarus AFP (28/5/10)
- What is a customs union? How does it differ from a common market and a monetary union, as we have in Europe?
- Russia wants to maintain its tariff on gas and oil supplies. Illustrate the effects of the imposition of a tariff. Does society gain?
- What are the arguments for and against retaining protectionist measures on trade with other nations?
- Assess the likely effects of the customs union on (a) the individual members and (b) other nations. Who do you think will benefit and lose the most?
- What will be the impact of the customs union and its disputes on the accession of these countries to the WTO.
- Is it a good idea for Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus to join the WTO? What conditions have to be met?