Regular readers will recall a few days ago, I was asked two very good questions on twitter, which I recited to you here answering only one of the questions relating to the greening of Ukraine and stating I would return to the question of the WTO and the benefits, or not, of membership.
For those of you who followed the conversation between the scholarly @Aghidel and myself via tweets what I am about to write is nothing new.
For those who didn’t, as stated I will quickly summarise my thoughts.
Many will look at the mechanics of the WTO and look to issues such as Canadian complaints of Ukrainian steel being “dumped”. That is in practice what the WTO is all about at a nuts and bolts level. It is though much more than that for Ukraine.
Through a different lens, membership of the WTO is also about what memberships Ukraine doesn’t have. It is not in NATO and neither is it in the CSTO. It is not in the EU and neither is it in the Customs Union or overly willing to take part in the Eurasian Union. It doesn’t hold a lofty seat at the UNSC or at the WB or the IMF.
In short it is in neither an economic or security regional alliance.
Therefore, membership of OSCE, the UN, Council of Europe, BSEC and WTO et al are necessary, if secondary and somewhat unreliable, external anchors in the international arena which go someway to providing economic, security and policy foundations and international dialogue.
Needless to say, if Ukraine remains adamant it will not join specific clubs to the ire of one or another neighbour, these anchors in recognised clubs, no matter how prima facie toothless they may appear, have a perhaps unseen role in Ukrainian political psyche. No doubt a quite deliberate policy given that the Ukrainian public are as against joining NATO as they are the CSTO for example. UN peacekeeping and humanitarian aid is about as far as external Ukrainian boots on the ground policy will fly with the majority of the Ukrainian public.
Ergo, my point to my learned scholarly friend, was that despite the frictions that WTO membership may cause Ukrainian businesses on occasion, things such as WTO membership at a political level are necessary anchors into the world in which Ukraine lives. The more such anchors and the longer Ukraine avoids making choices that will upset one or another neighbour, the more important these anchors are.