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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 November 2006, 15:26 GMT
US paves way for Russia WTO entry
President Putin, President Bush and Susan Schwab
Susan Schwab and President Putin met during the APEC summit
Russia and the US have signed a bilateral agreement that allows Russia to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) after 12 years of negotiations.

The 800-page trade pact was signed during a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Hanoi.

Russia's WTO membership was dependent on the deal - outlining reductions in tariffs across a range of industries.

In a separate development, Russia said that the US had lifted sanctions on jet maker Sukhoi.

They were imposed for allegedly passing on equipment to Iran that could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction.

No decision has yet been made on Rosoboronexport, Russia's state arms exporter, which faces the same sanctions.

'Historic step'

Previous hopes of a breakthrough on WTO entry collapsed as negotiators failed to clinch a deal at the G8 summit in July.

Russian trade and economic minister, German Gref said the deal would allow Russia to compete "as an equal" in world markets.

"This is a very significant event, which signals Russia's integration into the global trading system," he said.

"This is a historic step, the last step that signals the return of Russia to the market principles of the world economy."

Russian president Vladimir Putin said the trade pact, which was essential for Moscow's admission to the WTO membership, would not have been possible without the political will of the US.

US trade representative Susan Schwab also welcomed the agreement.

"The full integration of Russia into the global economy is in the interests of Russia and is also in the interests of the United States," she said.

The deal must be ratified in both countries and Russia must also agree a multilateral deal with the WTO as a whole - meaning it may be six months before its membership is complete.


The US was the most important member of the 149-nation WTO to withhold consent for Russia's membership.

Reservations about Russia's human rights record, state control over key energy resources, intellectual property rights and restrictions on the activity of foreign companies had all held up a deal.

Russian resistance to sanctions against Iran in response to Tehran's nuclear ambitions also counted against it in US eyes.

Meanwhile, Russia has raised concerns about the sanitary conditions used in imports of meat from the US.

Russia's WTO bid also faced opposition from Georgia and Moldova, two "near neighbours" with whom relations have been growing increasingly tense.

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