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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Says More Needed for WTO Entry

A senior European Union negotiator on Russia's entry to the WTO said the former Soviet state needed to do more to open up financial services and telecoms markets, but saw accession talks gaining speed this year.

Russia is the last major power outside the World Trade Organization and hopes to secure admission to the trade body in 2003. But it must first complete complicated trade talks with current members, including the EU.

Herve Jouanjean, director of the European Commission's directorate-general for trade, said in an interview that he and his team had held talks in Moscow last week on issues such as services, industrial tariffs, nontariff barriers and the level of agricultural subsidies allowable.

He said the question of freer access to areas such as the Russian financial sector and telecoms were a sticking point.

"Frankly, there is a lack of ambition on the Russian side both in the sector of financial services and telecoms ... to open up, to quickly adjust their economy to international standards," he said last week.

"If the Russians maintain their position of today, discussions will be very difficult in the services area."

Russia has slapped restrictions on foreign companies getting into the banking and finance markets by putting limits on ownership by foreigners and the areas where they can operate. Foreign firms want to ease these restrictions.

Jouanjean said the demands being made by the EU in its talks with Russia were "reasonable" and that more openness could in the long run benefit the Russians.

He said the EU was also concerned about Russia's status as a market economy, pointing particularly to the fact that internal prices for gas were far lower than export prices.

This meant gas prices effectively subsidized Russian goods.

"When I look at things like the price of gas on the internal market and on the export side, there are question marks at least," he said, referring to the issue of whether Russia was considered to have a market economy.