Source Pravda.Ru

Moscow expects Paris round to fix WTO entry date

The next round of negotiations in Paris may set a date for Russia's admission to the WTO, Russia's Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said on the day before.

"This is a very important stage of negotiations with key partners - the EU and the US. I am expecting them to fix a date for Russia's joining the WTO," Gref told reporters before flying off to the French capital.

Another round of talks on Russia's accession to the WTO begins in Paris on Wednesday. On May 12-13, bilateral meetings will be held with EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, American trade representative Robert Zoellick and US Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans.

Taking part on the Russian side will be Maxim Medvedkov, director of the trade negotiations department of the Russian Economic Development and Trade Ministry.

The previous round took place in Moscow in the middle of April. After it, European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi described as realistic Russia's entry into the WTO by the end of 2004. He said he was glad that intensive negotiations between Russia and the EU began bringing fruit. He said the sides were working to achieve a realistic objective set at the Rome EU-Russia summit, namely that Russia should join the WTO by the end of 2004.

Russia's accession is a key priority in bilateral economic relations and a key priority for the WTO, Prodi believes.

How can this organisation be called a world trade organisation without Russia, the chairman of the European Commission wondered.

Some difficult issues remain unresolved, however, but both sides are showing the will to tackle them, he noted.

Among as yet unsolved issues is import duties on a number of goods, including motor vehicles, aircraft and farm products, as well as access terms for foreign insurance companies and banks wanting to enter the Russian market.

A separate topic is a EU demand that Russia equalise its domestic and external prices for gas, as well as some disputable aspects in the energy sphere.

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