Russian Parliament Stands Up To WTO

On 7 June 2012 the Russian Government has submitted the draft law on ratification of the Protocol on Russia's accession to the agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation (the Marrakech Agreement) to the State Duma. The plenary session on the ratification of the Protocol is planned for July 4, 2012 and the hearing in the Federation Council is due on 18 July 2012.

Ludmila Baleevskikh
senior lawyer

Muranov, Chernyakov & Partners
+7 495 783-74-50

However, not all Members of Parliament agree with the ratification of the protocol.

Accordingly, 131 Members of Parliament appealed against the protocol to the Constitutional Court of Russia, the only body authorized to verify whether an international treaty not yet ratified by the Parliament contradicts the Constitution.

One of the leading experts in Russia on WTO law, managing partner of Muranov, Chernyakov & Partners attorney-at-law Dr. Alexander Muranov was engaged to prepare the petition and to represent it before the Constitutional Court.

After submission of the petition to the court on 20 June 2012, according to article 41 of the Federal Law on the Constitutional Court, the petition passed the preliminary consideration by the Secretariat of the Court and by the Judge of the Constitutional Court and in just three days was admitted for consideration by the Constitutional Court.

The hearing has been scheduled for July 3, 2012.

The petition claims that the international treaty does not conform to the Constitution in several key provisions.

First, the procedure for adoption does not comply with the order envisaged by the Constitution for ratification of international treaties. In particular, the package of the documents for ratification was not full (initially, on June 7, 2012 the Russian government has submitted to the State Duma for ratification only the protocol of accession to the Marrakech Agreement with annexes (lists of Russia's commitments regarding goods and services). However, neither the Marrakech Agreement nor the numerous trade agreements (annexes to the agreement) nor the protocols of accession of other WTO member countries were presented.

Second, the timing constraints for submission of

documents were not met (for example, the text of the Marrakech Agreement with annexes appeared on the State Duma’s web-site only on June 27, less than a week before ratification);

Third, a copy of the official texts of the documents were not properly certified;

Fourth, certified translations of international treaties were submitted; and

Fifth, the commitments of the Russian Federation upon accession to WTO were not agreed with the subjects of the Russian Federation (in particular, it concerns matters of joint jurisdiction of the Federation and its subjects, for example, with respect to natural resources, including oil and gas, services in respect of land transactions, etc.).

In addition, the substance of the treaty does not conform to the Constitution. For example, certain obligations of the Russian Federation in regards to legal services clearly violate the constitutional right of access to competent legal assistance as well as to the principle that justice must only be done by state courts.

Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg. The claimants have asked the Constitutional Court to check the documents submitted for ratification for conformity with the Constitution and not be limited to the arguments set forth in the petition.

The petition to suspend the ratification process until the end of the proceedings in the Constitutional Court has also been filed. The Constitutional Court has the right to apply with such recommendation to the State Duma.

It is not known whether the court has already considered the petition and whether it will be granted.

If the Constitutional Court considers the petition of the members of parliament on July 3, and then the State Duma and the Federation Council will ratify the Protocol - on the 4th of July or later but, in order to meet the Protocol's 220 days deadline, before July 23, 2012 - this would mean that the proceedings in the Constitutional Court were nominal, merely a game with known outcome. It is hard to believe that the Constitutional Court has not yet decided on the outcome of the hearing.

Muranov, Chernyakov & Partners