Russia mulls completion of WTO talks in April: official

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Russia could complete talks to enter the World Trade Organization (WTO) in April, its top trade negotiator said on Tuesday, as Moscow is keen to wrap up the 17-year-long accession process.

"Technically it is possible to complete all the talks in April," Russia's top trade negotiator Maxim Medvedkov told reporters.

"The talks are 99 percent completed," Medvedkov said, adding that meat import quotas and the level of state support for the agriculture sector were the only two sticking points that remained to be negotiated.

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.

Moscow has complained it has had to negotiate longer than any other country to join the Geneva-based body and that its accession process has been unnecessarily politicised.

In 2009, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would seek accession as a customs bloc with Belarus and Kazakhstan, a decision that took the WTO by surprise and further complicated the talks.

The accession process was also held up by the United States in August 2008 after Russia's brief war with Georgia, but it was revived in talks last year following a thaw in US-Russian relations under the Obama administration.

The United States endorsed Russia's bid to join last October, and Russia said in December it had wrapped up a deal with the European Union that should enable it to become a member this year.

© 2011 AFP

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