Stuart Harbinson, senior trade policy adviser, was quoted in a WTO Reporter story published on June 6, 2009 by The Bureau of National Affairs and titled "Surprise Russian Shift on WTO Accession Triggers Warnings of More Negotiating Delays." Russia has recently announced that it would halt its talks to complete its 16-year effort to join the World Trade Organization and begin negotiating a “customs union” with neighboring Belarus and Kazakhstan.
This customs union would then negotiate joint membership of the WTO. Observers have noted that this would possibly involve some complex legal issues and require additional time to bring negotiations to a conclusion. Harbinson, a former chief Hong Kong representative to the WTO, cautioned that "further probing may be necessary before conclusions can be drawn" from Russia's announcement and apparent change in strategy. However, “what may be questioned is whether it is in anyone’s interest for there to be any further delay in any of these accession negotiations”, he said.