Russian president calls for quick completion of talks with US over WTO accession

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Saturday for the quick completion of talks with the United States on joining the World Trade Organization. Speaking at a Kremlin meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow, Putin noted Russia's rapidly increasing economic and trade ties with the United States, particularly in the energy sphere, and said Russia could rank third or fourth as an energy supplier to U.S. market in the next three or four years.

But, he added: "Our cooperation is richer than that. I strongly hope that our negotiators will be able to succeed in their talks on Russian WTO accession that would create even better conditions for the development of trade and economic ties, including in the investment sphere."

Russia has been negotiating for entry into the 148-member global trade body since 1994, and signing a trade agreement with the United States is one of the key obstacles keeping it from joining. Among the main sticking points for the United States is Russia's position that foreign banks should not be allowed to open directly owned branches in the country.

Snow said the United States was intent on wrapping up the talks, but gave no time frame for signing a deal. "There are only a few remaining issues that have kept us apart," Snow told Putin. "One is the area ... having to do with the issue of opening financial markets. We had, I thought, a very good discussion on this subject yesterday. I think we are narrowing the differences and should be very close to resolution."

At meeting earlier with finance ministers attending the first G-8 meeting to be held in Moscow under the Russian presidency, Putin said talks with the United States were close to completion. "The main problem is talks with our American partners. I hope that we will be able to complete these in the nearest future," Putin said.

Russia has clinched over 30 bilateral agreements so far, including a deal with its main trade partner the European Union and China. Under WTO rules, each member has the right to seek its own trade deal with a candidate before approving that candidate's membership.

Others issues yet to be resolved for Russia's joining of the WTO include differences over farm trade barriers and import duties on airplanes, cars and other products, reports the AP.


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