Vladimir Putin: It is 'dangerous and stupid' for Russia to stay outside WTO

It is "dangerous and stupid" for Russia to stay outside the World Trade Organization, said Russian president Vladimir Putin at a press conference for Russian and foreign journalists in the Kremlin on Monday.

It is not so much calculations of advantages and disadvantages, though they also should be estimated, but the complex of legal norms in the economic sphere that will be applied to the whole country after it has joined the WTO, he said. Putin believes that it will influence even crime, as inner economic processes will be legalized to a high degree.

Russia is the only large economic power that is not a WTO member, the president pointed out. Today the WTO member states have a 95 per cent share in the world economy, he said.

Many of Russian businessmen support joining the WTO, Putin said, adding that it was easy to see who was against it. Those employed in the export-oriented industries favour the joining, while those who are not competitive enough are cautious about it or even openly against it, as they are afraid of competition with cheap western products of high quality.

Russia has to hold intensive dialog with its WTO partners, even on "delicate issues", the president said. There should be no hurry, he believes, though a delay can be equally dangerous, he added.

The president recalled that a new round of talks on the WTO, scheduled for 2004, would be devoted to changes in the organization's rules. If it happened without Russia's participation, it would worsen the situation and create additional obstacles for the country's joining the WTO, Putin said.

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