7 Dec 2010 15:52

Main Russia/EU talks deal concerns wood duties - Nabiullina

BRUSSELS. Dec 7 (Interfax) - The main breakthrough in Russia's World Trade Organization talks with the European Union was agreement on export duties applied to wood, Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina said.

"The signing of this memorandum is the fruit of economic interaction," Nabiullina said after a memorandum of mutual understanding concerning the terms of Russia's acceptance into the WTO was signed, wrapping up the bilateral talks process with the EU on this subject.

Nabiullina said agreement on wood export duties was exceptionally important. "We had tentative agreement on the gradual reduction of these duties to zero with the EU in 2004," she said.

In recent years, Russia "adopted the policy of developing its own timber-processing sector," Nabiullina said. It was decided "to seriously increase duties on exports of untreated timber, so as to create a stimulus for investors to put money into wood-processing in Russia," she said. The current duties are at the 25% level, and there have been proposals that they be hiked further.

"In the crisis conditions we ceased increasing the duties to give lumber producers the opportunity to export their product," Nabiullina said. "This was a serious topic in negotiations with the EU, since many producers in those countries counted on getting wood from Russia."

"We were able to coordinate rates for various types of timber. We will have to bring them down from the current level, but we will keep the duties above zero, as was discussed in 2004," Nabiullina said. Agreement on rail tariffs was the second key result in the talks, she added.

Russia's WTO accession talks have been going on for seventeen years.