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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Talks Tough Over Accession to WTO

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union's top trade official is to press Russia over opening up its markets for services such as telecoms and banking during talks on Moscow's entry to the World Trade Organization, officials said Wednesday.

European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy is to visit Moscow and St. Petersburg on Thursday and Friday to try and push the talks forward.

"We are keen to make progress in the WTO accession talks, but this means hard work in one or two key areas, such as services," Lamy said in a statement.

The EU wants Russia to commit itself to open its markets for a wide variety of services, although Russia has various hurdles to foreign participation in many sectors.

Industry, Science and Technology Minister Ilya Klebanov named the EU as the No. 1 obstacle to joining the WTO.

"We have managed to do major, positive work in our talks with the United States and Southeast Asian states and now we are in complicated talks with the European Union," Prime-Tass quoted him as saying Wednesday in Paris.

Talks with the EU are proceeding with "exceptional difficulty," particularly over its demand that Russia lift domestic fuel tariffs, he said.

Lamy is to meet Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, lawmakers and industrialists on Thursday. He will meet Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref on Friday.

"His message to Duma members will be to continue the internal reforms that are necessary in order to comply with the WTO commitments," said Lamy's spokeswoman. "The basic message to Russian industrialists will be that the WTO is good for you. It ensures a level playing field and you should not be afraid of the WTO. Reforms take place in a gradual manner and not from one day to the next."

(Reuters, MT)