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EU ministers to discuss RF accession to WTO – source

September 26, 2011, 15:35 UTC+3

At the same time, it noted that the ministers could hardly take any final decision on this aspect

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BRUSSELS, September 26 (Itar-Tass) — The EU Council ministers will discuss Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a source to European institutions told Itar-Tass.

The ministers will discuss issues related to Russia’s admission to the WTO, the source said on Monday.

At the same time, it noted that the ministers could hardly take any final decision on this aspect.

On the sidelines of the 66th session of the U.N. General Assembly Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President of Switzerland Michelin Kalmy Rey discussed Russia’s WTO entry.

The main attention at the talks was paid to pressing issues on the bilateral agenda, Russian Foreign Ministry sources informed. “The sides discussed modalities of cooperation within the context of Switzerland’s representation of Russia’s interests in Georgia,” they said.

The two officials also discussed the issue of negotiations on Russia’s entry to the World Trade Organisation.

Georgia shows interest in Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze said.

Commenting on a statement by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, Kalandadze said, “Russia is likely to join the WTO till the end of the year. Several countries, including Georgia, want Russia to become a WTO member. But this depends on how it [Russia] will be constructive at the upcoming Georgian-Russian talks.”

The WTO talks resumed in March 2011. They are held in Bern under the auspices of Switzerland. The latest negotiations took place in Geneva on September 12. Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Bashadze told journalists that the talks with Russia over its joining the World Trade Organization have been very difficult. The previous round of talks in Switzerland was uneventful, but the talks will continue, the minister said.

"These are very difficult talks. Both sides know each other' positions; Georgia keeps agreeing to compromises whereas Russia very stubbornly sticks to its stance," Vashadze said.

The minister did not elaborate citing an agreement between the parties not to comment on details.

In June, Vashadze said, "Georgia is expecting mutually acceptable solutions at the WTO talks with Russia."

"Georgia is sitting down at the negotiating table not for blocking Russia’s joining the World Trade Organization, but for reaching the solutions mutually acceptable for both parties," the minister said then.

The Georgian authorities stated that “Georgia's demands remain unchanged, i.e. Russia must fulfil the commitments it signed in 2004. They envision trade with Georgia through legal checkpoints and the legalization of customs checkpoints on the Abkhazian and South Ossetian stretches of the Georgian-Russian state border”.

In June, U.S. President Barack Obama said Russia might be able to complete the accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by the end of this year.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gave a positive answer when asked whether the U.S. administration thought Russia’s accession to the WTO this year was still feasible.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed at a joint press conference with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Russia’s admission to the WTO remained a high priority for her country and pledged support of the Americana government.

She believes that Russia’s accession to the WTO would benefit the U.S. economy.

The United States actively supports Russia’s accession to the WTO and hopes that this process can be completed before the end of the current year, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats said earlier.

The light at the end of the tunnel is now brighter than ever, he said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on June 20, referring to prospects for Russia’s admission to the WTO.

But when asked if this work could be finished by July, Hormats gave no clear answer and repeated that the U.S. would use the end of the years as a feasible deadline and there was nothing that could prevent the sides from completing the process by that time.

However Russian officials said the other day that if the remaining questions were not solved by August, the process might drag on for years.

Hormats said that Washington was requiring no more and no less of Moscow than of other countries that seek WTO membership and stressed that there was no and could be no discrimination.

At the same time, he admitted that accession to the WTO would not bring immediate benefits to Russia because WTO rules do not apply to its main export products -- hydrocarbons and weapons – but said it would facilitate Russia’s modernisation and economic diversification in the long term.

Hormats also expressed confidence that the volume of Russian-American trade would double after Russia’s admission to the WTO.

The U.S. administration continues to support to steadfastly support Russia’s admission to the WTO, U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro said.

She assured Itar-Tass before leaving for the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that this was the main priority in economic relations with Russia.

Sapiro recalled that during the latest summit in Deauville President Obama told President Medvedev that Russia’s accession to the WTO would be useful for the Russian and American economies and for the world economy as well.

White House's senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs, Michael McFaul, also recalled Obama’s promise to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to make sure that bilateral relations with America were more important for Moscow than relations with Iran.

McFaul said the U.S. intended to maintain the current pace of development in U.S.-Russian relations.

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