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    MEDT: Russia's accession talks in final stages


    Andrey Kushnirenko, Deputy Head of Trade Negotiations at the Russian Ministry for Economic Development and Trade (MEDT), has said that Russia's WTO accession talks are in their final stages. Speaking at a 6 December conference on the challenges and opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of WTO accession, Kushnirenko said outstanding issues would be resolved "in the next three to four months". Adding time needed for ratification, he estimated the third quarter of 2008 as the earliest likely accession date, with accession obligations in force as of January 2009, and first tariff cuts in January 2010, with the remainder implemented over a period of three to four years.

    News agency Rosbalt reported 27 November that, after Russia's WTO accession, foreign companies' share in the capital of Russian insurance companies would be capped at 50% up from 25% today, according MEDT official Ekaterina Maiyorova, She added that nine years after Russia's WTO accession, branches of foreign insurance companies would have complete access to Russia's market, but only under strict conditions.

    A number of areas of Russia's accession agreement are still under negotiation at multilateral level, including protection of intellectual property, sanitary and phytosanitary, technical regulations and export duties. A recent statement on the MEDT website says negotiators will insist on the figure of USD 9 billion during talks on support for agriculture. On a bilateral level, Russia still has to sign protocols with Saudi Arabia and Georgia. Talks with the former, held in Moscow on 22 and 23 November, reportedly made significant progress. Dates have yet to be fixed for further talks with Georgia, although reports suggest the two sides may meet in January. Tensions between the two countries have increased in recent times, and disagreement over border customs posts on the borders between breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Russia remains unresolved. However, Maxim Medvedkov, Head of the Trade Negotiations at the Russian MEDT, in a 29 November interview published on the Ministry's website said: "It is possible for Russia to accede to WTO even if one of its members does not agree". He added that bilateral talks with Georgia are currently "at the technical level".

    Elsewhere, members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have given a green light to the start OECD accession talks with Russia and four other countries, Slovenia, Chile, Estonia and Israel. OECD says the move signals "a new stage in the Organisation's drive to broaden and deepen its involvement with emerging new players in the global economy." Accession negotiations will take place individually between the candidate countries and the OECD committees that handle the substantive aspects of the Organisation's work.

    OECD defines its mission as being to help make the world economy work effectively and efficiently. It currently has 30 members: The OECD's current members are: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

    Related
    Geneva talks on Russia's accession pass "positively and constructively" (World Trade Net Business Briefing, October (2) 2007).