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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WTO Bid Picks Up Support

The government plans to sign bilateral deals with five Asia-Pacific countries as part of its progress toward acquiring World Trade Organization membership, Itar-Tass quoted the country's top trade official as saying Tuesday.

Recent talks with Thailand, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore were likely to result in deals at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation heads of government meeting scheduled for Nov. 18-21, Maxim Medvedkov told Itar-Tass.

There had been substantial movement in talks with Japan on access to Russian markets, he said.

"It's clear that we may already be talking about completing bilateral negotiations at the beginning of next year," he said.

Government ministers originally set a year-end target to complete bilateral talks with all Russia's trading partners, envisaging actual membership of the trade body around the start of 2006.

Before it can join the WTO, Russia must strike bilateral deals on membership terms with 60 trading partners. It has already signed a deal with its top trading partner, the European Union.

Agreeing terms with the United States remains a major hurdle.

Ministers shelved their timetable last week after talks in Washington failed to bring a breakthrough, with U.S. officials insisting that foreign banks should be allowed to set up branches in Russia.

Other snags included access to the country's insurance and telecom sectors, tariffs on imports of automobiles and aircraft, and action to combat piracy and safeguard intellectual property.

Earlier this week, another top trade official said recent reforms had brought antipiracy laws close to the standard required by the WTO.

But there is little evidence of the reform on Moscow's streets, where shoppers can pick up cut-price pirate music and software, CDs and DVDs of the latest films -- including Hollywood blockbusters just released in U.S. cinemas.

Medvedkov also said there were still problems in discussions with Brazil, but he hoped President Vladimir Putin would resolve those on a state visit at the end of this month.