Russia will not give up car interests for WTO: Putin
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday called car manufacturing rules a "red line" that Russia would not cross as it seeks to complete its 18-year-long talks to join the World Trade Organization.
Russia currently forces international auto manufacturers to produce 300,000 cars in Russia per year in exchange for lower import duties.
The rules also state that foreign makers such as Fiat and Ford have to produce 60 percent of their parts locally to qualify for the lower import duties.
A top Russian negotiator said this week that the issue remained one of the biggest obstacles to reaching an agreement on Russia's accession to the free trade club this year.
But Putin said on a visit to the Ural industrial city of Magnitogorsk that Russia's position on the car dispute remained firm.
"We are engaged in an uneasy dialogue with the European Commission and our American partners," Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying.
"They insist on us dropping the (car manufacturing) requirements ... and our position on the matter remains unchanged," he was quoted as saying.
"This is a red line that cannot be crossed because we cannot give up the interests of our producers."
Russia has been negotiating accession to the WTO since 1993 and remains the largest economy outside the world's trade body.
Putin has said on repeated occasions that he would only agree to Russia's membership on acceptable terms.
But economic aides to President Dmitry Medvedev have been pushing for the negotiations to finish within weeks so that Russia could join by year-end.
© 2011 AFP