Putin says Russian WTO membership in 2011 'possible'
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin voiced hope on Friday that Russia would complete its 17-year quest for World Trade Organization membership next year.
"I think this is possible and this our wish," he said after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. "There are virtually no unresolved issues left."
Merkel said that she was in favour of this happening in order to help the Doha round of world trade talks be completed.
"It is also desirable for us because of the G20, with Russia being a member of the G20. We would like finally to complete the Doha trade talks, and we would very much like to do this with Russia as a WTO member," she said.
The German chancellor continued to pour cold water on Putin's proposal of a free trade zone between the European Union and Russia, however, saying that although this was desirable, it was more of a long-term goal.
She said that a key stumbling block was Russia's plan to form a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus.
"This is more of a question for the future. I basically share it (the idea). We are neighbours and just like in other areas we will intensify our partnership step by step."
Putin had made the proposal in a guest editorial in a German newspaper ahead of his visit this week.
Russia, which opened its bid to join the WTO in 1993, is the last major world power that is not a member of the Geneva-based global trade body.
The United States endorsed in October Russia's bid to join, and on Wednesday Russia said it had wrapped up a deal with the European Union that should enable membership next year.
The accession process was held up by the United States in August 2008 after Russia's brief war with Georgia, but it was revived with the thaw in US-Russian relations under the Obama administration and talks this year.
© 2010 AFP