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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

State Says It Won't Be Bullied by WTO

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GENEVA — Russia is pressing forward with its attempts to join the World Trade Organization but won’t be bullied into making concessions that would be unfavorable to its economy, its chief negotiator said Wednesday.

Maxim Medvedkov, deputy minister of economic development and trade, said Russia wants to join the body, which sets rules on international trade, "as soon as possible, but not at any price." Russia has been trying to join the WTO for nearly seven years, but it is much further from completing those efforts than China, the other giant waiting to join.

Medvedkov said Russia has to complete bilateral deals with around 50 current WTO members. They want Russia to reduce import tariffs on goods and open up its market to foreign service providers.

One major sticking point likely will be agriculture, where nations are expressing concerns about heavy government subsidies. The United States and Canada among others are pushing for Russia to eliminate all export subsidies and significantly reduce domestic subsidy programs, Medvedkov said.

But that would mean that Russia could no longer compete with nations that still subsidize their farmers, such as European Union countries, he said.

"If we stop subsidizing and follow the advice of one set of countries, we will be unable to compete with those that subsidize, and vice versa, so we have to find a compromise with our partners and our farmers as well," he told reporters.

Nations also are waiting to see whether Russia will pass legislation that is needed to meet the country’s commitments under accords signed by all 138 WTO members.

Medvedkov said his country felt that the deals struck should be good for Russia as well as the WTO member countries, and said economic problems at home meant that a certain level of protection for domestic producers was still needed.

"Russia is a huge market. It is really interesting for many players. At the same time, our industries are still facing consequences of the crisis in August 1998," he said.

"Some industries, especially in the services sector, need some protection. We have to find a compromise with our trading partners."

Russia is particularly concerned about laws in some major trading partners, especially the United States and the European Union, which treat Russia as a non-market economy, Medvedkov said.

In some cases, that leads to high import tariffs on Russian goods that are considered to have been produced at below the market price. Russia is particularly worried that its steel industry is disadvantaged by such laws.

Some 30 countries are waiting to join the WTO. China hopes to join before the end of the year.