Russia could finish WTO accession talks in two months

Russia could complete its negotiations to join the World Trade Organization in two months, Russia's chief negotiator said Friday, according to Russian news agencies. Russia has yet to reach agreements with the United States, Switzerland, Colombia and Australia. Economic Development and Trade Ministry spokesman Konstantin Bogdanov said Russia's final accession date would depended on how swiftly a raft of technical issues, including sanitary and customs regulations could be agreed.

"We think we'll wind up all bilateral negotiations by the end of February or early March," chief negotiator Maxim Medvedkov was quoted as saying.Earlier he had said Russia was aiming to join the WTO in spring 2006.

Russia has been negotiating to join the 148-member global commerce body since 1994, and has had to embark on a major set of legislative reforms to fall in line with WTO rules, including producing a new customs code.

Outstanding problems have included differences of opinion over Russian farm trade barriers and intellectual property laws, while talks with the U.S. have latterly focussed on a small number of topics, including airplane subsidies, reports the AP. N.U.