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Russia Accuses U.S. of Seeking Role of Global Web Regulator
Interfax - 12.19.11 - JRL 2011-228

MOSCOW. Dec 20 (Interfax) - Moscow complained on Monday that the draft Global Online Freedom Act introduced to the U.S. Congress means the United States is seeking the role of global Internet regulator. "Under this draft law, the U.S. State Department would have to publish annual lists of countries that supposedly restrict online freedom, and companies developing information and communication technologies would have to make reports on parameters of their cooperation with allegedly repressive states. Some export restrictions would be prescribed concerning technical equipment and software: the American government would force its own business criteria on transnational corporation," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement on Monday.

"It appears that some figures in the American establishment transfer a confrontational mentality and lingering Cold War algorithms into the sphere of modern digital technology. The U.S. is again seeking the role of supreme arbiter and ruler of the destinies of the world, this time trying to exploit the power of Internet technology as a catalyst of political, social and economic processes in what are vital nations and regions for it," he said.

"In advocating unlimited freedom of action in cyberspace, the American government forgets, as it were, about the principle of the supremacy of law, or, to be more precise, it denies such supremacy to other nations. In speaking about adherence to the task of seeking to prevent online and offline criminal activities in one of her speeches on Internet resources, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed that the U.S. is guided by its own laws and values," Lukashevich said.

"There is perfect realization in Washington that fundamental rights and freedoms cannot be exercised unconditionally in cyberspace or elsewhere - their exercise must be restricted by interests of domestic law and order, public security, and non-restriction of other basic human rights. Such restrictions are directly recorded in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other fundamental treaties on human rights. Action, quite strict at times, that the U.S. and some other Western countries take against protest demonstrations shows that, in their home policy, they by no means forget about restrictions on democratic freedoms. Double standards are intolerable in this matter," the spokesman said.

Keywords: Russia, Government, Politics - Russia News - Russia

After losing a pliable two-thirds majority in the Russian Parliament, the Kremlin will test its mettle in parliamentary democracy early next year, as the newly-emboldened opposition threatens to block Russia's hard-won membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Russia's new-look Parliament will reconvene on December 21, but is unlikely to take up WTO ratification procedures until after the March presidential elections. However, two of the four main political parties in parliament - the Communist Party and Just Russia ­ say they're bracing for a tough fight to try to stop the ratification.

Pro-Kremlin United Russia has dominated the State Duma for more than a decade, but its share of the official vote slipped to barely 50 percent in the December 4 parliamentary election, from a high of 64 percent in 2007. The results gave United Russia 238 seats, or 52.9 percent of the 450-member legislative body. The communists polled second with 19.2 percent, up from 11.6 percent four years ago, boosting the number of their seats to 92 from 57. With the loss of a two-thirds majority, experts say, United Russia's parliamentary faction will no longer be able to change the Constitution unilaterally. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the main contender in the presidential elections slated for March 4, will also have to rely on support from other parties for the parliamentary majority it requires to approve his legislative agenda, including ratification of key international agreements such as the WTO accords.

In a sign of the changing times, Just Russia ­ which was set up with the Kremlin's support before its leader, Sergei Mironov, fell out of favor ­ said that it will do all in its power to block ratification of the treaty. "We will vote against this," Mironov said Friday, just as the news broke that the WTO ministerial conference in Geneva has adopted Russia´s terms of entry. The Communist Party, too, has vowed to fight to protect the country's food market and domestic agricultural producers, which it said will be imperiled by Russia's membership in the world trade body.

Russia wrapped up 18 years of hard bargaining to secure long-awaited membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Friday. Russia's $1.9 trillion economy was the largest outside the WTO, and accession is expected to help the country pursue a transparent and predictable environment for trade and foreign investment. The country also badly needs to diversify its economy away from its heavy reliance on commodities such as oil and gas, and experts expect WTO membership to accelerate the process. "With the entry of Russia into the WTO, 97 percent of world trade will now be regulated by the organization," Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina told the WTO ministerial conference in Geneva. "The world's economy is going through a difficult period. At such times, the risk of protectionism is always increasing. By joining the WTO, we are demonstrating our preparedness to tackle such risks. Therefore, for us, the conclusion of the negotiations is not the end, but the beginning of a process."

That process promises to be lengthy. Under the accession deal, Russia agrees to undertake a series of important commitments to further open its trade regime, including signing on to 30 bilateral agreements on market access for services and 57 on access for goods. Russia also committed to cut its tariff ceiling from the 2011 average of ten percent for all products to 7.8 percent. The average tariff ceiling for agricultural products is cut to 10.8 percent from 13.2 percent currently, with manufactured goods at 7.3 percent, down from 9.5 percent. Russia also agreed to limit farm subsidies to $9 billion in 2012 and to gradually reduce them to $4.4 billion by 2018.

"These [agreements] will create serious problems for Russian farmers and may, in fact, hasten the collapse of Russia's entire food processing industry," Vladimir Kashin, the deputy leader of the opposition Communist Party, said on Friday. Unlike China, Russia had failed to take precautionary measures to guarantee that its farmers can compete on a more equal basis with farmers throughout the world, he said. "Our government did nothing in this regard and took no steps to protect domestic producers and the whole manufacturing industry," Kashin said. "Crops grown in a cold climate like ours simply cannot survive competition with European products."

The Russian Parliament still has until June 15 next year to ratify the accord and bring it into force. However, the debate is promising to be hot, as some renegade members from United Russia have also said they are against it, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported on Saturday. The Communist Party ­ the most virulent opponent of Russia's entry­ dismissed the WTO accession as part of the Kremlin's economic agenda that could threaten national sovereignty. "Our party is categorically opposed to it [Russia's WTO accession] because lowering trade barriers will hurt the country's large agricultural sector and make it tough for our manufacturers to compete," Kashin said. "We shall encourage the government to adopt amendments to existing legislation aimed at greater government support for domestic producers, as well as adopt a different policy on energy prices."