It took nearly 20 years of negotiations, but Russia was finally welcomed into the World Trade Organization on Wednesday.
The largest economy outside the WTO until now, Russia will become the international trade group’s 156th member. The U.S. joined in 1995, China in late 2001. The last member to be accepted was Montenegro in April.
Vanuatu, a small island nation in the Pacific, followed Russia as the 157th WTO member.
Russia first applied for membership in 1993. Success now means that President Vladimir Putin, just starting a new term, will likely hold greater sway in international economic dealings.
Membership is expected to bring better trade access and more foreign investment to the country’s roughly $2 trillion economy. Russia’s new stature could result in an additional $162 billion in annual economic output, the World Bank estimated this spring.
Russia’s membership “will facilitate investment and trade, help to accelerate the modernization of the Russian economy and offer plenty of business opportunities for both Russian and European companies,” according to a statement from Karel De Gucht, trade commissioner for the European Union.
The EU says it is Russia’s top investor and trading partner and said total trade between the two last year amounted to some $383 billion worth of goods. The EU exports items such as cars, medicine, telephones and tractors, while Russia – the world’s largest energy exporter – sends raw materials such as oil and gas.