Western sanctions violate WTO principles, says Putin

Western sanctions violate WTO principles, says Putin

MOSCOW - Reuters
Western sanctions violate WTO principles, says Putin

Russia’s Vladimir Putin has hit out at the West over their sanctions, claiming they have thrown out the trade rulebook in dealing with the Kremlin. AP Photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin Sept. 18 slammed the EU and the U.S. for violating basic World Trade Organization principles in their bid to punish Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

“Limits introduced against Russia are none other than a rejection by some of our partners of basic WTO principles,” he told a government meeting, adding that the matter was being politicized in violation of the WTO.

“The principle of equal access for all countries to markets for goods and services is being violated. The regime of ‘most favored nation’ treatment ... are being ignored,” he said.

“Essentially, a group of countries unilaterally allowed themselves to cross out these and a number of other WTO principles and rules for Russia, which is among the world’s six largest economies.”

Washington and Brussels introduced several rounds of biting sanctions against Russia over Moscow’s “unacceptable behavior” in Ukraine.        

The Kremlin retaliated by ordering an embargo on Western food supplies in August and threatened to ban imports of cars and consumer goods such as clothes.

“We understand that there are things which are obviously more important for our partners than the normal state of the world economy,” Putin said icily.

“Let God be their judge, that’s their decision,” he said, referring to Western sanctions.

The EU said in August it might appeal to the WTO over Moscow’s ban on its food and agricultural products.

Russia joined the global trade body in 2012 after 16 years of talks.

Countries enforcing trade sanctions do not have to justify them at the WTO unless they are challenged in a trade dispute. Justifications for restricting trade can range from environmental and health reasons to religious scruples. But some diplomats fear that wide-ranging sanctions against Russia could only be explained by national security concerns. That would be a legitimate argument, but one that has never been invoked in a WTO dispute and could unravel mutual trust.