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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Minister Vows Faster Reforms for WTO Bid

GENEVA — Russia's top negotiator for entry to the World Trade Organization said Tuesday that Moscow would soon make new offers on opening its vast market for goods and services.

Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Maxim Medvedkov told reporters that he hoped this would speed up discussions that have taken seven years, but said he recognized agriculture still loomed as a major stumbling block.

At the same time, he said Russia could not accept U.S. insistence that his country be treated after admission as a non-market economy for anti-dumping purposes — a condition that would leave its exports open to "discrimination."

In talks over the past two days with countries in a WTO working party, Medvedkov declared, "We agreed that in February we would present new offers in goods and services."

The package, shaped after bilateral discussions with key WTO powers like the European Union and the United States, "will mark a new phase, and when negotiations resume there will be qualitatively new proposals on the table," he added.

On Monday, Medvedkov told the working party — attended by 57 of the WTO's currently 140 member states — that getting into the Geneva-based trade body was a top priority for the administration of President Vladimir Putin.

During his visit to Ottawa, Putin asked Canada to support the entry bid — a request diplomats say he has been forwarding to many WTO countries over the past few months.

Medvedkov said although Russia believed its laws on patents and copyright were in line with WTO rules, some technical issues related to their implementation had been identified in Geneva.

Trade diplomats said intellectual property issues were of major concern to many countries who argue that Russia is a source of pirated audio-visual products and some branded consumer goods that get onto world markets. Medvedkov said Moscow was tackling the problem partly through a reform of its judicial system. "We will take measures to be in full compliance with WTO rules in the coming months," he added.

Medvedkov said agriculture had not yet been discussed in detail either in the WTO talks. "But we know this is going to be a real problem," he told the news conference.

Major farm produce exporters in the body, like the Australian-led Cairns Group which links 18 developed and developing countries, want to ensure that Russia drops nearly all subsidies to agriculture.

"We are a major net importer of foodstuffs," said Medvedkov. "Our aim is to ensure normal competition, but without undermining our domestic producers."

He said recent talks with U.S. officials had not resolved the anti-dumping issue, in which Washington seeks to maintain the right to take unilateral action against Russian goods it deems are being exported at below-cost prices.

"We are very firm that Russia cannot be compelled to accept a WTO-Plus," he said, referring to the special terms the United States wants to apply enabling it to impose heavy duties on Russian products like steel and textiles.