Vol. 5 Num 382 Fri. June 24, 2005  

Russian bid to join WTO runs into trouble

Talks on Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organisation ran into trouble on farm trade and other issues during a "frosty" meeting on Wednesday, trade sources said.

Disagreements emerged between Russia and trading partners including Australia, Canada, the European Union and the United States during informal talks about agricultural trade as well as health and veterinary measures, the sources added.

The chairman of the WTO working party conducting negotiations with Russia, Iceland's ambassador Stefan Johanesson, also expressed broader concern about the talks as they resumed at the WTO's headquarters.

Diplomats have privately been aiming to seal an agreement on Russia's accession at a WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December.

Johanesson said he had "some concerns about the current pace of work if we are to record serious and substantial progress in this accession in the months remaining before the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference," the sources said

Negotiators requested clarification from Russia about the agriculture and sanitary and phytosanitary issues (SPS).

Johanesson also "regretted" that he had not received updated offers from the Russian delegation on several financial issues, including investment regimes, and competition policy.

Nonetheless, work was underway in other key areas, he added.

The talks on the multilateral part of the package for Russia's membership of the WTO were adjourned until Friday.

Agriculture, intellectual property protection in Russia, financial services and aviation industry tariffs were among the key obstacles during the last round in Geneva in April.

In May 2004, Russia reached an agreement on the WTO with its main trading partner, the European Union, one of series of parallel bilateral agreements that Moscow also needs to strike with concerned trading partners before it can join.

Russia is also close to an agreement with Tokyo and on Tuesday received the thumbs up from Mexico. But it has not managed to seal a crucial deal with the United States so far.