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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 17:09 GMT
Russia gets WTO entry boost
Docks in Murmansk
Russian industry is hoping for a swift entry to the WTO
The head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has said he believes Russia could join the international trade body within the next two years.

Mike Moore, the WTO director-general, said he thought Russia would be "sitting at the table as a full member at the next ministerial conference."

The next such conference is expected to held in the summer or autumn of 2003.

Mr Moore was speaking before beginning talks with the Russian deputy minister for economic development and trade, Maxim Medvedkov.

In my view Russia will be sitting at the table as a full member at the next ministerial conference. I think this is possible but of course it is up to the members

Mike Moore, World Trade Organisation director-general
But he warned that a lot of difficult work lay ahead and cautioned against trying to push the process through too quickly, saying "short cuts take longer in the long run."

Russia's bid to join the WTO is supported by top-ranking representatives of its member-countries, including the G7 group of the world's richest nations.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has named his country's membership in WTO as one of the top priorities for the government, and wanted negotiations completed by the end of this year.

Hopes amid difficulties

Russia is keen to join WTO in order to get access to new export markets and to attract foreign investment.

But some Russian politicians and businessmen oppose the idea, arguing that WTO membership would introduce fierce competition, leaving Russian producers and exporters unprotected in the domestic market and abroad.

WTO director-general Mike Moore
Mike Moore: optimistic about Russia's entry prospects
To join the organisation a country must adjust its laws to remove trade barriers and ensure its domestic economy is open to international competition.

Many of Russia's manufacturers are unable to meet international trade standards, something that may cause problems if the country accedes to the WTO.

Earlier this year Russia complained about lack of progress at the talks with WTO and pointed out that differences of opinion on some tariffs were serious, including those on furniture, cars, agricultural goods, most chemicals, pharmaceuticals and toys.

Last month Mr Moore said that in meetings with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow the president had "understood completely" the mechanism for joining the WTO and agreed the process would help Russia's own internal reforms.

But despite his confidence, Moore acknowledged at the time that there were "enormous problems" facing Russia, particularly in the area of agriculture.

Russia first applied to join the global trade body in 1993 when it was still called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade but negotiations only got underway in 1995.

See also:

03 Jul 01 | Business
Russia WTO talks 'at dead end'
25 Jun 01 | Business
Russia WTO bid gathers pace
24 Oct 01 | Europe
Russia angles for post-war gains
10 Nov 01 | Business
China admitted to WTO
06 Nov 01 | Business
Q&A: World trade talks
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