Moscow puts WTO membership on back burner

Other News Materials 25 August 2008 18:38 (UTC +04:00)

Russia said Monday it would scale down WTO accession talks and pull out from trade agreements concluded with a mind toward membership, the news agency Interfax quoted Premier Vladimir Putin as agreeing with top ministers.

"We should pursue negotiations and working groups on Russia's WTO accession, but we will inform our partners of the need to exit some agreements which currently oppose the interests of the Russian Federation," first deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov was quoted by the agency as saying.

Putin approved the plan as "sensible."

"Our economy, especially in some sectors, is carrying the burden, without seeming to receiving any returns from WTO membership - if they exist at all. So far, we don't feel or see any advantages, but carry the burden," Putin added, dpa reported, refer to Interfax.

Russia has been bargaining for WTO membership since 1995, and as the world's 10th largest economy has become increasingly frustrated by the conditions fielded for entry to the organization.

But Monday's comments come against the background of a widening gulf with the West over the conflict in Georgia.

The United States has issued renewed threats to drop Russia's WTO bid in retaliation for Moscow's near two-week occupation of Georgia.

Georgia, a firm ally of the United States, is a WTO member and will also have its say on Russia's bid.

While Moscow has long been lobbying hard for membership, Shuvalov said Monday that Russia had no ambition to join before the end of next year.

In June, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson was in Moscow for WTO accession talks and held out hope that Russia would gain entry by November 2009.