On December 21, 2021, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual report submitted to Congress assessing Russia’s implementation and enforcement of its World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments. In keeping with the tone of past annual USTR reports on this topic, Ambassador Katherine Tai, the USTR, stated that the 2021 report “provides an overview of Russia’s continued departure from the guiding principles of the World Trade Organization, such as non-discriminatory practices, more open trade, predictability, transparency, and fair competition.” The report notes that Russia “maintains restrictive at-the-border measures, institutes behind-the-border measures to inhibit trade, and implements an industrial policy seemingly driven by the guiding principles of import substitution and forced localization.”
The 2021 report notes that Russia in the past year had extended its control over the Russian economy and tightened restrictions on trade. The report highlights the following :
- Russia maintains tariffs ranging from 25 to 40 percent on various industrial products imported from the United States in retaliation against U.S. tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum articles from Russia under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
- Russia continues to maintain a near-complete ban on imports of agricultural goods from the United States and other WTO members.
- Russia maintains outmoded import licensing requirements and a mandatory labeling regime.
- Russia maintains non-science-based import restrictions and refuses to recognize other countries’ guarantees on exporting facilities.
- Russia continues to adopt and implement localization measures to provide preferential treatment to both domestically-produced goods and services.
- Russian continues to lack transparency in its trade regime and policies by, for example, refusing to notify the WTO of any state trading enterprises and refusing to answer questions about its import substitution policies.
- Russia’s enforcement of intellectual property rights remains weak and the pirating of websites and movies and other online pirating activities there continue to proliferate.
The report states that the WTO is “premised on the belief that an open and fair multilateral trading system is built and sustained on transparency, predictability and the rule of law” but that “Russia appears to be taking a divergent path, erecting barriers and stifling competition.”