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Russia's role in fostering the CIS trade regime

De Kort, Joop and Dragneva, Rilka (2006): Russia's role in fostering the CIS trade regime. Published in: Department of Economics Research Memorandum No. 2006.03 (2006): pp. 1-10.


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The CIS trade regime can be characterised as a mix of, partly overlapping, weak, bilateral, subregional, and multilateral agreements. This is a result of the design of the CIS, which was explicitly constructed to allow its member states to participate in only those parts that they deemed in their best interest and not to participate in other parts. The dissolution of the Soviet Union forced the successor states to create a trade regime. Initially, they turned to one another not to disrupt trade any more than needed. However, Russia carried most of the financial burden of the initial arrangements and started to push for bilateral agreements. The others followed this example, but were careful not to commit too much sovereignty in these agreements. At a later stage, sub-regional agreements substituted for the CIS framework as well. The CIS states remained ambivalent, however, to submit too much sovereignty, whereas Russia formally stayed out of the multilateral free trade agreements altogether. The countries did work together multilaterally and committed themselves to these agreements where it concerned specific issues. In this paper, we look for causes of the myriad of agreements in the actual economic developments. We will therefore present and discuss the major trade agreements with economic arguments. We will also briefly discuss the developments in the volume and direction of trade. Although we expect the gradual improvement of the agreements and the ‘rationalisation’ of the complex arrangement, we do not foresee a consolidated ‘hard’ multilateral framework in the short or even medium term.

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