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Russia Becomes 156th Member of WTO

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Russia became the 156th member of the World Trade Organization on Wednesday, following nearly two decades of negotiations.

Russia was one of the world's last major economies to join the Geneva-based institution, having previously expressed concerns about the potential influx of Western goods and services.

As part of its membership, Russia has agreed to lower import tariffs to less than 8 percent from a current average of around 10 percent.  

As part of the agreement, Russia has also made commitments to open trade in several sectors, including the banking, automotive and insurance industries.

Some analysts expect this will be to the benefit of Russian consumers by making it cheaper for them to purchase imported products while allowing them to save more and invest back into the local economy.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Russia's membership is not only good news for Russia but good news for American companies and workers, pointing out it will improve access to one of the world's fastest growing markets.

Russia joins the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, which will become the body's 157th member on Friday.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said "joining the WTO is a sign of confidence in the organization and in what it can deliver for its members."

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