Progress in efforts to get Russia into WTO: US

28th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The United States and Russia are making progress in efforts to accelerate Moscow's bid to join the World Trade Organization, President Barack Obama's top trade official said Wednesday.

US officials in Geneva and Brussels were discussing with their Russian counterparts on various technical issues linked to the WTO membership issue, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters.

Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during talks in Washington last month that he would help Russia accelerate its bid to join the WTO and that he hoped Moscow could clear final hurdles to accession as early as September 30.

"We have a team that has been in Geneva and Brussels that have been working with Russia to encourage them to make sure we get the documents and the products that we need, that we can make an assessment on that," Kirk said.

He did not give details on the process but indicated that top officials had been on track in devising a "working framework to address some of the outstanding issues" related to US and Russia positions over the WTO membership.

Kirk said the leaders "very pointedly" directed him and his Russian counterpart to come up with the framework.

"We have done that. We have had several phone calls since then," he said.

Asked whether they could meet the September 30 "deadline," Kirk said, "We are going to do everything we can to see if we can move that process.

"We believe it is not only in the interest of the United States, it is greatly in the interest of what President Medvedev and others are trying to do to reform Russia's economy for Russia to be a part of the rules-based global trading system."

Russia, which opened negotiations to join the WTO in 1993, is the largest economy that is still outside the Geneva-based body.

Moscow has repeatedly accused Washington of hindering its efforts to join the WTO, which is designed to liberalize the flow of global commerce.

Medvedev said in May that Russia was "tired of sitting in the waiting room" of the WTO, calling for the United States to support his country's bid for membership.

He called for Moscow's swift entry into the WTO "without humiliation or new demands."

But Victoria Espinel, Obama's intellectual property enforcement chief, told a congressional hearing last week that Russia must do more to combat theft of US intellectual property.

"Clearly Russia needs to make significant improvements in intellectual property in order to join the WTO," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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