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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gref: Duma to Focus on WTO Entrance in Fall

The State Duma will focus on entry to the World Trade Organization and the 2003 budget during its fall session, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said Tuesday.

The Duma must approve more than 20 bills within the next year to bring trade legislation in line with the WTO and protect the economy once Russia is a member of the world trade body, Gref told a news conference. A new Customs Code is a priority, he added.

"It is obvious that customs legislation can't be left the way it is now -- it is outdated and only creates additional barriers instead of facilitating foreign trade with Russia," Gref said.

The government also is expecting the Duma to approve new laws on the standardization and certification of products, he said. Export duties should be eliminated and import tariffs unified.

The government is hoping Russia enters the WTO in 2003.

The Duma's spring session ended Monday with the passage of key economic legislation, including a bankruptcy law and an extension of tax relief to small businesses.

Gref said the government now is working to eliminate problems created after the United States recognized Russia as a market economy last month.

Market status is "a great achievement" for the economy, Gref said.

However, according to U.S. law Washington can still impose harsh protective import duties on Russian products, while Russia can no longer subsidize its industries if it wants to keep market status, he said.

While such laws may have made sense during Soviet times, when industry was subsidized by the state, they no longer should apply now that Russia is considered a market economy, Gref said.

The United States would not be able to levy such protective tariffs if Russia was a WTO member, he said.

Gref said the government has made progress on the issue during several months of negotiations with the United States.

"We hope to agree on necessary amendments to the legislation that will allow Russia to be treated as a WTO member before it really happens," he said.

The government is to discuss Russia's progress on entering the WTO during negotiations with the trade body in July.

"The financial services market and agriculture remain the most difficult issues [blocking entry]," Gref said.

Gref said the government is expecting the European Union to fulfill a promise it made earlier this year by following the U.S. lead and recognizing Russia as a market economy before fall.