President Vladimir Putin on Saturday signed the bill ratifying Russia’s entry to the World Trade Organization after 18 years of often acrimonious negotiations, the Kremlin press office said.

Economists have long argued that Russia needed to join the WTO as it was the only major economy outside the body — following China’s membership in 2001 — and the government hopes accession will stimulate growth.

The measure making Russia the 156th WTO member will become law within 30 days, after the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, approved it on July 10 and the upper house, the Federation Council, on Wednesday.

But the membership has also been controversial, with some medium-sized firms expressing concern they will be put out of business by being unable to compete against imports made cheaper by a reduction in Customs tariffs.

(This article was published on July 22, 2012)
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