Russia's WTO accession, a top agenda of new U.S. ambassador

U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Burns said Thursday that support for Russia's integration in the world economy, promoting the rule of law and closer energy cooperation would be high on his agenda as the new top U.S. diplomat in Russia.

Addressing the American Chamber of Commerce in Moscow, which supports U.S. businesses operating in Russia, Burns singled out demographic decline, excessive bureaucracy, "pervasive and growing" corruption and the lack of independence and transparency within the judicial system as significant problems obstructing Russia's economic development.

Burns outlined five priority areas of U.S.-Russian cooperation: support for Russia's joining global economic institutions such as the World Trade Organization; "building a genuine energy partnership," in which he said the U.S. sought to move to concrete deals; expansion of ties in the non-energy sector; encouragement of transparent and predictable rule of law; and helping Russia to preserve and develop its human resources through health and education programs.

"In all five of these areas and the rest of our economic relationship, the coming year holds a lot of promise but a sense of urgency will be crucial," Burns said.

"The Russian economy has come a very long way in a relatively short period of time and it's potential is enormous ... It can't afford to lose focus and its momentum," he said.

Mentioning differences between the United States and Russia over how to tackle the Iranian nuclear program issue, Burns said they were "tactical."

"There is a lot of strategic common ground between us," he said. "We are going to sort through those tactical differences working with the EU, and the British, the French and the Germans as well," reports the AP.

Photo: the AP

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