Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said that he is certain that Russia will successfully conclude its negotiations on joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) this year.
"This spring our negotiations with the European Union will be completed, and in the course of the year - with the United States and other countries," Mr. Kudrin told members of the American-Russian Business Council in New York on Monday. "We are close to concluding every protocol. After that, the WTO secretariat will continue the work, but the process is already irreversible, and we will thus make another step toward the openness of the Russian economy."
"I am sure that at the negotiations on the WTO in the sector of financial services we will be able to come to an agreement with our partners, including the United States, which insists on the adequate rights of the foreign capital in the banking sector," the Russian finance minister said. However, he preferred not to go into the details of the agreement on this issue, stressing that "they are being discussed."
Mr. Kudrin said that the a new law about hard currency regulation that comes into force in July 2004 will be a big step in the liberalization of the Russian economy. "It seriously frees the movement of capital and preserves the right of the Central Bank to introduce certain restrictions," the minister said. "Beginning in 2007, we will fully remove all restrictions on the movement of capital, and this step requires us to conduct a more responsible economic and financial policy than has been until now."
In the next few years, according to Mr. Kudrin, Russia will continue to have a budget surplus. In this case, he noted, "we will not follow the example of the American administration, and even if taxes are lowered we will ensure that there is no budget deficit. We are carrying out budgetary reform with this goal. On Thursday, I will report on a new stage of this reform at a session of the Russian government."