Russia and US to agree on WTO entry

Disagreements between the United States and Russia over Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be settled within the next month or month and a half, Russian Economy Minister German Gref said. Negotiations are not simple but “we will make progress and reach an agreement within 1-1.5 months,” Gref said. He said US President George W. Bush had recently sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, listing 10 problems regarding Russia’s admission to the WTO. “Some of the listed problems are new, in our opinion,” Gref said, noting that some controversial issues had been settled in Geneva, and there remained five or six unsettled issues.

Gref said Washington’s new demands were about the agriculture sector, including meat import duties. Terms of access to Russia’s financial services market remained the key problem, he stressed.

In April, Economy Ministry officials will discuss the remaining disputable issues with their American colleagues via video conferences. After those consultations are held the date of new talks with US Trade Representative Robert Portman will be fixed. Gref said the meeting was likely to be held in late April-early May.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of blocking Russia’s entry into the WTO. At a meeting with Russian businessmen on Wednesday he said progress in the Russian-US talks on WTO entry was being artificially delayed. “We received from our American colleagues a list of questions requiring additional consultations, which we thought had been settled long ago,” Putin said. He confirmed Russia’s interest in joining the world trade family. “We will take this step if it satisfies all participants of the process, in the first place Russia and its economy,” the head-of-state stressed.

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