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Russian Leaders United In WTO Entry Strategy, Tactics - Medvedkov


There are no differences over World Trade Organization (WTO) accession strategy and tactics in the Russian administration, head of the Economic Development Ministry's trade negotiations department Maxim Medvedkov told Itar-Tass by phone from Geneva on Friday.

The decision of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan "to hold separate negotiations in the entry into the WTO does not disagree legally with the political decision of the three chiefs of state to enter into that organization jointly, on equal terms and simultaneously," he said. "We abide by government directives," he added.

"The only difference lies in legal procedure. The entry into the WTO of a legal entity, the still-to-be-formed customs union with prospects unclear for other countries, would have been a much more difficult task," Medvedkov said. "In that case, all the negotiations would have to start anew, because the customs union is a newly formed legal entity. At the same time, Russia, Kazakhstan and, to a lesser degree, Belarus, have accumulated plenty of agreements and it would be senseless to waive them."

"This position does not contradict the wish of the three countries to actively form the customs union and to harmonize tariffs, systemic regulations and other terms essential for admission to the WTO," he said.

"While holding the negotiations, we will proceed from earlier achievements, rather than start from a blank sheet of paper."

Reactions differ to the tripartite customs union's plan to enter into the WTO simultaneously and on equal terms, Medvedkov said.

"Some countries welcome the decision of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, as it will raise the efficiency of the customs union. Other states fear that the accession process may drag out. Customs union laws are still to be studied," he said.

Certain states wonder "if the simultaneous entry is possible when Russia and Kazakhstan have made substantial progress at the negotiations, and Belarus lags behind," Medvedkov said.

"We declare the intention to harmonize customs union laws. In fact, we have a negotiating pool, which aims to carry on the accession to the WTO, together with the development of the customs union," he said.

"The customs union is taken as a reality, so we should accelerate the harmonization of laws," he remarked.

Member countries of the tripartite customs union will set the date of the next round of WTO talks in December, he said. "So far, we have declared the wish to continue negotiations. There is no precise date of the next round," he said. "The customs union delegation .125which has been staying in Geneva since Monday.375 ends its visit today. The delegation said that the three countries would seek the admission separately but simultaneously and on equal terms," he said.

"Soon we will post information on legal fundamentals, tasks and final goals of the customs union and answer questions," Medvedkov said. The information will be sent to all partners in the negotiations within the next two or three weeks. "Once the replies are received and experts of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus end consultations, we will decide when the negotiations can continue. The date of the next round will be set in December," he said.

"In fact, we have a negotiating pool. The working group of a particular country will discuss national issues, while issues related to the entire customs union will be discussed by experts from the three states," he said.

"We have a common delegation coordinating all issues and informing national governments of main questions, problems and negotiation results."

Minsk will have to speed up accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in order to become a WTO member simultaneously with Russia and Kazakhstan, Medvedkov said.

The customs union states may enter into the WTO together if Belarus "quickly resumes the negotiations and unfreezes its working group, which has been very slow since 2005," he said. "Minsk should draft a concept and an action plan, coordinate its activities with other working groups and start attune national laws with WTO requirements. Russia and Kazakhstan have done that, and Belarus will have to follow the suit."

"Belarus has confirmed the readiness to resume the negotiations and to hold them actively," Medvedkov said. "Anyway, we have declared the goal of simultaneous accession. I do not know if that happens exactly on the same hour or day or if some country will do it a bit earlier or later than others. That will be clear after an analysis of national positions, which will take more than two months. Still we say we want the simultaneous entry," he noted.

As for the possible accession period, Medvedkov said, "I call this period brief, compared with the 16 years of our negotiations. I won't make any forecasts and will not say that may happen next year. Still I am almost positive that will happen before I retire eight years from now."

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