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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gref Says Piracy Hurdle Cleared at WTO Talks

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said Friday that piracy worries were no longer holding up U.S. talks on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization and expressed hope for a deal by the end of October.

"I think that in the coming two weeks we will reach a final agreement," Gref told his Latvian counterpart, Aygar Shtokenbergs, on Friday.

He said the sanitary review was nearing completion and that the question of Russia's record on enforcing intellectual property legislation was no longer an impediment to signing the bilateral agreement.

The top U.S. negotiator, Trade Representative Susan Schwab, said earlier this month that piracy was a major barrier. A spokesman for Schwab expressed hope Friday that talks would be wrapped up this month — a deadline set by the two sides last summer.

Some lawmakers in Washington urged the White House in a letter earlier in the week not to strike a deal until Russia showed it was serious about fighting piracy. "We strongly believe that concluding bilateral negotiations with Russia in spite of the Kremlin's continuing unwillingness to protect intellectual property rights will send a harmful message … and set a terrible precedent," they wrote.

Gref on Friday expressed frustration that the question of food inspections had delayed an agreement, and said politics played a role.

"This is not exactly a pragmatic position, rather a politicized one. And our American colleagues acknowledge this. But in Congress, there is a big agrarian lobby and for them this trivia is of great significance," he said.

Negotiations continued in Geneva over the weekend.

(AP, Reuters)