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RF membership in WTO to help develop beneficial trade ties – EU

November 16, 2011, 19:17 UTC+3

Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will make it possible to develop mutually beneficial trade relations

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TBILISI, November 16 (Itar-Tass) — Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will make it possible to develop mutually beneficial trade relations, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said.

Speaking at a press briefing after the talks with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Wednesday, Ashton said Georgia had made contribution to promoting Russia’s accession to the WTO.

She praised Georgia’s position on the WTO accession talks. The fact that Russia will be a WTO member allows all parties to develop mutually beneficial trade relations,” Ashton stressed.

Georgia’s chief negotiator at the talks with Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergi Kapanadze described as “important” Russia’s agreement with the document proposed by Switzerland for monitoring trade turnover between Georgia and Russia.

“We are very glad that Russia, after some consideration, made the decision and agreed with Switzerland’s proposal. This is very important for us because for the first time in years there will be international monitoring of trade turnover between Georgia and Russia, including in the Abkhazian and Tskhinvali sections of the state border between the two countries,” he told the Tbilisi-based Rustavi-2 television company.

The agreement proposed by Switzerland envisions bilateral monitoring of cargo flow on the Russian-Georgian border in so-called trade corridors. To this end, international monitors will be placed in the beginning and the end of the corridors under Switzerland’s auspices, and there will also be electronic data exchanges.

“There will be three trade corridors between Georgia and Russia. The fist corridor will begin on River Psou (Abkhazian section of the Georgian-Russian state border) and end in Zugdidi. The second will begin at the Roksky Tunnel (South Ossetian section of the border) and end in Gori. The third one will begin at the Verkhny Lars (Russia) – Kazbegi (Georgia) border checkpoint (North Ossetian section of the border),” Georgian Foreign Ministry officials said.

Earlier, Georgia and Russia signed a set of documents concerning Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), thus removing the last obstacle to Moscow's membership in this international organisation. Russia and Georgia came to agreement at the talks on Russia's accession to the WTO. The delegations of the two countries reached a consensus on the draft bilateral agreement on the administration of trade in goods, Russia's chief negotiator Maxim Medvedkov told Itar-Tass.

Medvedkov, who heads the Department of Trade Negotiations at the Ministry of Economic Development, said the agreed-upon draft “is based on our concept and does not go beyond Russia's principled position. It corresponds to existing realities in the region and does not run counter to the WTO rules”.

The document allows an independent company to be contracted to audit trade data. As WTO members, Russia and Georgia have to submit such data to the Organisation's integrated database. The company will also assist the Russian and Georgian customs on certain aspects of customs administration. “We are pleased by the fact that Georgia supported the draft and that the agreement has at last been reached,” Medvedkov said.

The earlier talks between Georgia and Russia brought no result. “The negotiations are over and we can say that they collapsed, ended with no result at all,” Kapanadze told Reuters. “Georgia cannot give its consent to Russia's entry to the WTO until Russia changes its position on trade within the occupied territories,” the diplomat said, referring to two Russian-backed breakaway regions in Georgia - Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The Georgian delegation insisted “Russia comply with the obligations, signed in 2004, to trade with Georgia only through legal checkpoints and legalise customs and border crossing points on the Abkhazian and South Ossetian sections of the Georgian-Russian state border”.

However, Russia says this demand had nothing to do with its accession to the WTO and was politically motivated.

Russia insured itself against all possible surprises and unexpected turns at the WTO accession talks, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said. “I think we have insured ourselves against possible surprises at the WTO accession negotiations. We will basically have a rather long transitional period for certain sectors of the economy,” Putin said.

“Nevertheless we will try to ensure that our enterprises and whole industries work in a competitive environment and operate more effectively in order to be more competitive in the long run,” he said.

At the same time, he stressed, “We will make our final decision only if all parameters related to the protection of our economic interests at a certain point are negotiated and committed to paper.”

Russia may become a member of the World Trade Organisation before the end of the year, its Director-General Pascal Lamy said earlier.

For the first time in about ten years that he has been dealing with Russia's admission to the WTO, Lamy seems to be truly hopeful that the country's admission to the organisation is real as never before, he said.

“We should cover the remaining distance quickly, without creating big problems for communication with our leading partners in the EU. I hope that the government will find such compromise,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said. “We believe it necessary to intensify our efforts to join the WTO,” he said.

Medvedev said Russia would use the shortest way possible to join the WTO. He said the form of accession was less important.

Usually, admission to the WTO takes about 10 years. The WTO has 153 member states, which account for 95 percent of the world's trade turnover. Russia filed an application for admission in 1994.

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