Firms eye closer Russian ties with WTO membership


With Russia becoming on Wednesday the 156th member of the World Trade Organization, Japanese businesses are looking to expand their ties with Russia as tariffs on exports such as vehicles will fall.

A senior official at a machine toolmaker said that “new economic activity will start” once Russia joins the WTO.

The Russian membership is expected to improve transparency in the process for gaining approval for new businesses in the country. An official at a major electronics maker said it will “serve as a spur” for trade and investment.

For the auto industry, “Russia is a valuable market” especially with the severe situation in Europe, an official at Mazda Motor Corp. said.

Although Japan’s overall vehicle exports fell 7.7 percent in 2011 from the previous year, Russia-bound exports jumped 43.1 percent, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. launched full production in July at a joint plant in Russia with French partner PSA Peugeot Citroen.

Mazda plans to start joint production in Vladivostok this autumn.

The scale of production will be limited for now due to the capacity of local auto parts makers.

Japanese automakers now plan to increase exports to take advantage of the lower tariffs.

Mitsubishi Corp. believes that Russia’s WTO membership will basically be “a positive contribution,” but hopes shouldn’t be too high for a rapid expansion in demand there, a senior company official said.

Even China has been facing difficulty in expanding since it joined the WTO, the official pointed out.

While many Japanese companies are hoping to expand into Russia, they are closely watching their industry rivals abroad.

An official at a major machine toolmaker said that “with the company facing tough competition with European rivals, it may lose business opportunities.”

Argentina accused


Japan has brought a case against Argentina to the World Trade Organization together with the United States over import restrictions on a variety of products.

Japanese officials said that since Argentina started requiring exporters to obtain official approval to bring any products into the country, a number of automakers and other companies have been forced to delay their shipments.

They said the government has repeatedly called on Argentina to follow the WTO rulebook.

The European Union brought a similar case against the country to the WTO in May.

Under the trade organization’s rules, Argentina is required to engage in talks with Japan and the United States, and if the three can’t reach agreement by themselves within 60 days, the dispute will be handled by a WTO panel.