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BRUSSELS, November 21 (Itar-Tass) —— Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will expand trade and economic partnership with the European Union and accelerate talks on a new agreement on strategic partnership, Russian Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said.
“Russia’s accession to the WTO in December of this year will lead to considerable expansion of trade and economic partnership with the EU,” Chizhov said at the 5th Europe-Russia Forum on Monday, November 21.
The EU is the number one trade partner of Russia while Russia ranks third among the EU’s trade partners, he said.
“This [Russia’s accession to the WTO] will also step up work on the agreement on strategic partnership between Russia and the EU, the talks on which have been going on for the fourth consecutive year,” the diplomat said.
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 earlier.
“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.
The agreement that should lay the legal groundwork for modern relations between Russia and the European Union is being drafted “on the basis of the assumption that Russia is a member of the WTO, which saves [us] the trouble of duplicating lots of trade rules and norms that are thoroughly regulated in the WTO”, he said.
“And Russia’s accession to this organisation will pave the way to this agreement,” he added.
The current agreement on partnership and cooperation with the EU has been “overdue” for almost five years – it expired in late 2006, and has been automatically extended every year.
Relations between Russia and the EU have long overgrown this document, but negotiations on a new agreement have been delayed by two crises between Russia and the EU – a 18-month crisis over the Russian ban on Polish beet supplies in 2006-2008 and a three-month halt in relations after the conflict in South Ossetia in August 2008, when the EU said Russia had used “disproportionate force” against the Georgian aggression. As a result, the talks resumed in July 2008 but were suspended again by the EU in September. They resumed in late 2008 and have been in progress ever since.
A new agreement between Russia and the European Union should become a document on strategic partnership, Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Konstantin Kosachev said earlier.
He urged the European Union to develop such cooperation and said the abolition of visas for bilateral trips would help Russians develop a stronger commitment to the European choice.
In his opinion, the presence of the word “strategic” in the name of the agreement is not only a matter of terms. “Such a name of the agreement has a deep meaning. Cooperation becomes strategic when one partner is ready to give up his own interests for the sake of another partner,” he said.
Kosachev noted that this is what Russia had done when ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. This issue is disputable for Russia because the number of its supporters and opponents is approximately the same.
“But we made our choice because the European Union was interested in that,” the lawmaker said.
According to Kosachev, the abolition of the EU visa regime would become an important factor in mutual exchanges. He did not rule out that this might cause certain problems for the EU at the initial stage. “But I would regard such decision as a factor of tremendous magnitude for strengthening the Russian population's commitment to the European choice,” Kosachev said.
Visa-free travel between Russia and the European Union remains an unconditional priority for Moscow, a Kremlin official said earlier.
The Russian Foreign Ministry earlier noted progress in the talks towards visa-free travel with the European Union.
It spoke of “considerable progress” in coordinating a list of “joint steps” for a transition to visa-free travel for short trips by Russian and EU citizens, the ministry said.
Chizhov said that Moscow favoured a simplified two-stage procedure for issuing five-year Schengen visas.
The first basic document between Russia and the European Union mapped out the goals and instruments of cooperation between them. The agreement on partnership and cooperation was signed in 1994 and entered into force in December 1997. The agreement expired on December 1, 2007. Despite a possible constant prolongation of the agreement for the next year the parties acknowledged the need to draft a new agreement that would replace the existing one. The basic agreement embraced political cooperation, trade, business and investments, payments and capital, competitiveness, the protection of intellectual, industrial and commercial property, as well as cooperation in the struggle against illegal activities.