After eighteen years of preparation and near misses, Russia was finally admitted to the WTO on Friday, December 16. Canadian trade expert, Bill Dymond, who passed away in November 2010, would have been very pleased indeed. After retiring from a career as one of DFAIT’s most implacable negotiators, Bill became director of Carleton University’s Centre for Trade Policy and Law. Since CTPL had a CIDA contract to advise the newly minted Russian Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations on its WTO accession, Bill became Russia’s WTO Advisor in Chief.
In his remarks at the Geneva WTO meetings last week, Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast recognized Carleton’s role providing technical assistance to the Russian team. What was not mentioned was that Maxim Medvedkov, head of the Russian negotiating team was, for four years, the director of Moscow’s Centre for Trade Policy and Law, a sister organization to CTPL Canada. CTPL’s Russia program manager (and now executive director), Phil Rourke was part of Medvedkov’s inner circle and Canadians were called upon to help with key elements of Russia’s accession and public outreach process. During my years at CTPL, I worked with Russian professors to design training courses on WTO rules for government officials and students. No small feat when all prior Russian texts on market behaviour were written by Karl Marx.
Bill loved his role as Medvedkov’s éminence grise. As a Russian advisor, he got to make mischief that was never permitted when he represented Canada. Bill was secretly delighted when an American negotiator asked to have “that Canadian” removed from a WTO accession meeting in Geneva. (Thereafter, pains were taken to ensure that Bill’s name was always included on the official Russian delegates’ list.) During one such meeting, Bill grew tired of a speaker’s criticisms of his Russian colleagues. As the critic droned on, Bill dumped the contents of his briefcase onto the table and began sorting through old receipts, gum wrappers, and bits of detritus – a distraction that brought the monologue to a timely conclusion.
Bill was a curmudgeon. His neckties, when he wore them, were more soup than silk. He called me Laurakins and mocked my academic theories. He did, however, give me two good pieces of advice:
1) Always wear nice shoes to a meeting,
2) Try to do something important with your life because you’re not getting any younger.
Thanks, Bill. You are missed.