Having completed the discussion of the second version of its final report, the Working Group of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) begins practical work on finalising the documents on Russia's entry into the organisation. In the opinion of Maxim Medvedkov, Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade of the Russian Federation, such is the main result of the Group's three-day session which ended in Geneva on Thursday evening.
He believes that the decision to draft (by May 19th, this year) the third version of the Working Group's final report signifies the beginning of a qualitatively new stage in the negotiations with the WTO. "I do not say that this will be the last version, but it is on its basis that we shall form the concluding package," said Medvedkov.
Just as Chairman of the Working Group Kare Brin (Norway), the head of the Russian delegation believes that at the coming round of the negotiations late in June or early in July "we shall finally and irrevocably put an end to the stage of 'questions and answers' and shall be able to deal with the essence of the matter - working out Russia's obligations." In the opinion of the deputy minister, this year has been marked by a considerable intensification of the negotiating process. In the past four months, the Working Group has held three sessions and the Russian delegation has conducted more than 120 bilateral negotiations and a series of multilateral consultations on several themes. This work has resulted in "an obvious progress" in bringing together the positions of Russia and its trade partners.
According to Medvedkov, "we are very close to the completion of our work on agriculture and starting drafting obligations" in this sphere of the Russian economy. He pointed out "an obvious step forward at the negotiations concerning the quotas on meat, poultry, beef and pork" in the course of which "we did not feel that under the proposed system (the distribution of quotas and receiving licenses) our partners will come across worse conditions for accessing the Russian market." The results of the latest multilateral meetings on services have made Medvedkov believe that "the majority of our partners understand that Russia should maintain its right to a special regime of regulation" concerning border territories, close-end administrative entities, services of common use, the protection of small ethnic minorities and the preservation of cultural heritage.
When commenting on the discussion of correcting the Russian legislation with the account of the WTO norms, Medvedkov pointed out that the Working Group positively assessed the strict fulfilment of the schedule of this work. The State Duma is expected to adopt the last four legislative acts from the "WHO package" by this autumn.
Taking into account the wishes of the trade partners, the Deputy Minister did not comment on the bilateral negotiations on commodities (with 23 countries) and on services (with 15 countries), which took place in the context of the April round, and only said that they would continue till Saturday.
An explosion of household gas occurred in a nine-storeyed apartment building in the city of Shakhty, the Rostov region of Russia. The blast destroyed two storeys of the building