MOSCOW, September 1 (RIA Novosti) — Russia is not planning on leaving the World Trade Organization, but instead will use the organization’s instruments to protect the country’s interests, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday.
"In regard to reciprocal measures, in case there is a new wave of anti-Russian sanctions, I won’t even begin to argue or fantasize because everything needs to be taken into account. And once we understand what our American and European colleagues will honor us with this time, and only then [we] will make a decision on how we should respond," Lavrov said.
"We will continue as always to base this on our own interests: protect our economy, protect our social sphere, protect our citizens, business and at the same time make a conclusion from the actions of our partners on their adequacy, their ability to negotiate and their reliability," he said.
"In regard to the WTO, no [Russia is not exiting], but we will do just the opposite and use the instruments of the WTO," he added.
Russia joined the WTO on August 22, 2012, in a process that took 19 years to complete.
In March, the United States and the European Union introduced a package of targeted sanctions against Russia in response to Crimea’s reunification with Russia. As the Ukrainian crisis escalated, several new rounds of sanctions targeting Russia’s defense, energy and banking sectors followed, with US allies adding Russian individuals and entities to their own blacklists.
Moscow said in July that sanctions violated WTO rules and may force Moscow into a destabilizing trade dispute. The US ambassador to the WTO said the actions were consistent with the obligations within the organization.
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.
In August, Russia introduced protective measures banning the import of agricultural and food products from countries that had imposed sanctions on Russia for a year.
Moscow has repeatedly called the language of sanctions “counterproductive,” saying the measures “threaten international peace and stability” and run counter to the principles of international law.