5 Oct 2010 15:52

Russia will become WTO member before 2012

MOSCOW. Oct 5 (Interfax) - Russia will most likely become a member of the World Trade Organization before the end of 2011, director of the Economic Development Ministry's department for trade negotiations and head of Russia's delegation to the WTO talks Maxim Medvedkov said at a Tuesday briefing in Moscow.

"If the current pace of the negotiation process persists, then I think we will welcome New Year's 2012 as a member of this organization. I think it will happen," Medvedkov said.

"Technologically, we can wrap up all the negotiations over the next few months, that's clear," he said.

"At last we find ourselves in the final phase of the negotiations," Medvedkov said. This means that of the three large negotiation blocks, the results of talks involving two of them - more precisely, access to the market for goods and services - which were virtually wrapped up in 2006, will in one to three months be technically set.

As for the third negotiation block - systemic issues having to do with meeting basic WTO obligations, which were also largely completed in 2008 - changes are now being made to the documentation in light of the formation of Russia's Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, Medvedkov said. "But this is mainly technical work. It began in April and is now halfway done," he said.

Five amended sections in the working group's final report have already been addressed during the course of informal, multi-party consultations, Medvedkov said. Another ten sections are slated to be gone over during multi-party consultations that kick off in Geneva on October 25, and fifteen others during consultations planned for December 5. All told, changes need to be made to 32-33 sections and the plan is for all materials to be submitted to the working group before the end of this year, he said, though a shortage of time may make complete consideration of the amendments take until early next year.

Discussion continues on such issues as the level of subsidies for agriculture, access to the Russian market for meat, the matter of export duties (on timber most of all), several questions concerning the transparency of legislation, the activities of state enterprises, and several others, Medvedkov said.

Negotiations over access to the market for meat have not even begun yet. They are likely to involve from ten to fifteen countries, including the United States, he said. "Our position, in general terms, is that we have to agree in the framework of these negotiations on terms for brining meat into the country that allow for implementing plans we have for development and investment. It's obvious that these conditions will be stricter than those that existed in 2003-2005, when we introduced restrictions on meat for the first time," he said. It would be difficult to say now what the final outcome of the negotiations will look like, as they will take several months, he said. "But I don't think this subject will block accession to the WTO," he said.

After becoming a member, Russia will still be able to apply export duties to the energy group of commodities as to many other goods, Medvedkov said. Russia's embargo on grain exports has not been raised during the negotiations, he said, as all parties understand the reasons behind it and that it is only temporary in nature.

The negotiations are proceeding based on a single position in the talks process with Belarus and Kazakhstan, though the negotiations themselves are being held separately. "Legally, we continue accession as sovereign states, and this will not affect the effectiveness of Customs Union operations," he said.