Russia WTO accession talks may be put on hold till 2008 - expert

Other News Materials 27 October 2006 16:36 (UTC +04:00)

(RIA Novosti) - Russia's negotiations with the United States over its accession to the World Trade Organization may have to be suspended for at least two years, a deputy head of the Carnegie Moscow Center think-tank said Friday.

Russia's efforts to join the World Trade Organization reached a deadlock in July this year when the U.S. refused to approve the bid unless American meat imports were allowed into the country without preliminary veterinary checks, reports Trend.

"There are fears that the negotiating process toward signing a WTO accession protocol between Moscow and Washington will be put on hold, at least until the next political cycle in Russia and the U.S., i.e. until 2008, or even later," Dmitry Trenin told RIA Novosti in an interview.

The presidents of both countries will see their terms expire in 2008.

Trenin said Russia has been showing an uncompromising approach in the final round of talks, and may end up either bowing to U.S. demands or dropping its bid altogether.

"Not everyone in the ruling elite is convinced that Russia really needs to join the WTO," he said.

Another obstacle to Russia's WTO membership is the Jackson-Vanick amendment, Trenin said.

"Next year, if the protocol is signed, the issue of the Jackson-Vanick amendment will arise."

A provision of the 1974 Trade Act, Jackson-Vanick set higher customs duties on goods from the Soviet Union and other nations with non-market economies and immigration restrictions. It continues to apply to Russia, even though the country has been in compliance with the freedom of immigration requirements since 1994.

According to Trenin, it is highly unlikely that the U.S. White House will pressure Congress into scrapping Jackson-Vanick, seen as discriminatory in Moscow, especially if the Democrats win a parliamentary majority in one or both houses in the coming mid-term elections.

Russia's trade negotiator, Maxim Medvedkov, is currently discussing the issue with U.S. officials in Washington.

Earlier this month, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said he was hopeful the WTO accession talks with the U.S. would be completed by the end of October - the deadline set in July when Russian and American negotiators met on the sidelines of a G8 summit in St. Petersburg.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov also believes a breakthrough is possible. "Negotiations [with the U.S.] on Russia's accession to the WTO are going through an intensive stage now," he said Wednesday, but stopped short of giving a specific date by which Russia could be through with the talks.

Russia has to date completed talks with 55 of 58 WTO member nations, and has yet to sign accession protocols with the U.S., Georgia and Moldova.