Russia » Economics
Author`s name Michael Simpson

What Does Russia Know About the WTO?

The majority of Russian producers are unaware of the world market requirements they have to meet
It may be bad or good, but Russia won't join the World Trade Organization this year. This decision was reached in negotiations in Geneva. Some time ago, politicians and economists of all ranks predicted that Russia would be a WTO member by the end of 2003. But, as is clear now, it won't be. It may be that this isn't a bad situation at all. In any case, Russia has one more year to consider the pros and cons of its joining the WTO, estimate its actual potential and stir up less-than-active producers who don't think about life under the new conditions at all.

Some producers complain they don’t have enough financing; others think they are living quite happily under present-day conditions. In a word, as experience shows, just a few producers are getting ready for living under conditions of a globalized economy. What do they think their life is going to be like under new conditions? It is astonishing, but the majority of leaders at Russian enterprises have no notion of the demands of the world market they will have to meet.

An interesting sociological poll was held by the city administration and the Standardization, Metrology and Certification Center in the city of Ufa in the republic of Bashkortostan, which revealed these just-mentioned sad facts.

In the poll, directors of 218 enterprises in Ufa were sent inquiry forms to find out how top managers are handling the situation. 108 potential respondents ignored the poll. However, questionnaires filled out by the remaining 110 directors were quite enough to get a clear idea of what they thought about globalization and Russia's role in the WTO.

The first question in the poll was whether the top managers knew the basic requirements their enterprises were to meet in connection with Russia's admission to the WTO. 70 people responded that they knew the international rules of the game; only 18 people honestly admitted they didn't. In addition, other questions on the questionnaire revealed that the 70 positive answers to the first question were of a rather dubious nature.

The second question concerned estimates of the activity of the Ufa enterprises on the threshold of incorporation into the international organization. 48 enterprise directors doubted they would be effective enough to compete with strong rivals, while 47 respondents said they were ready for activity in the international economic sector.

The third question on the poll suggested that the top managers give evaluations of the economic consequences of Russia's joining the WTO. The majority responded that WTO membership would be profitable for Russia in general. 24 respondents said that Russia wasn't ready for globalization.

The way the top managers from Ufa's industrial enterprises answered an additional question is embarrassing. As is known, a certified quality management system is one of the main bits of evidence on the world market demonstrating a producer's honesty and the competitive strength of his goods. Specialists from territorial departments of the Russian State Standard Committee insist that directors of local enterprises must introduce certified quality management systems. In a word, the problem is widely discussed, which means that directors of enterprises should be perfectly aware of the problem. However, in fact, it turns out that some directors of industrial enterprises have no notion of the quality management system certified according to the ISO-9000 international standards. Out of the total number of questioned top managers, 40 said that the system had been already introduced at their enterprises. It sounds strange, because there are only 30 systems of this kind at enterprises in the whole republic of Bashkortostan (remember, the respondents represented only enterprises in the republic's capital, Ufa).

One more question in the poll concerned the necessity of teaching personnel at industrial enterprises the international-standards ISO-9000:2000 series. 24 top managers answered there was no need to teach personnel. It is possible that they already know everything? Unlikely.

Elvira Latyshova
The Bashvest newspaper